The Carlson School’s newest group of Master of Science in Business Analytics students is getting an early chance to put classroom lessons and their skills to the test.

The MSBA Program kicked off a four-week case competition with the help of PwC on Friday morning in 3M Auditorium. This year’s class of MSBA students, who started last month, heard from PwC representatives Doug Bond, managing director in the firm’s insurance advisory practice, and Veronika Torarp, ’04 BSB and director with Strategy&, part of the PwC network.

The case competition is part of Professor Ravi Bapna’s Analytics for Competitive Advantage course and a broader effort to infuse the MSBA curriculum with further experiential learning opportunities, in addition to the 14-week Carlson Analytics Lab in the spring.

“Our intent was to give you a problem that you would actually see once you’re out in the real world,” Bond told the group in explaining the case scenario, which entails investigating one line of insurance that’s not performing up to industry standards.

Over the next four weeks, the students will work in teams of five or six to analyze data created by PwC for the case, apply problem-framing techniques, meet with industry coaches from PwC, propose solutions, and build persuasive presentations that they’ll deliver before a panel of faculty.

The top eight teams will then advance to the finals on August 25, where they’ll face judges from PwC. Torarp, who also serves on the MSBA Program Advisory Board, stressed the importance of creating effective messaging in delivering a solution, telling the students, “You’d be amazed at how long it takes to put together a good presentation and a good story.”

Bond also offered up a key piece of advice with implications that extend far beyond a single case competition: keep the big-picture impact of a project in mind.

“Companies can get too focused on ‘let’s do analytics,’ but it’s outcomes that really matter,” he said. “At the end of the day, if you haven’t created some value, changed something for the business, or found a different way of doing something, the analytics won’t matter.”

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