MSc Management Insights Speaker Series: Why is data so tricky?

12 January 2023

Every student will be familiar with Times Higher Education (THE), which provides us with one of the index or reference standards when we choose a university. Chief Data Officer Duncan Ross illustrated the idea and difficulties they experienced when they started to rank universities.

It is an undeniable fact that some evaluation standards are very difficult to measure, since there is no consistent definition of a university, which makes the assessment inaccurate and implausible.

Monetising Times Higher Education

THE was initially published in newspaper format in the 1970s. Besides income from advertisement, data becomes increasingly apparent when THE monetise them by selling to different parties, such as universities, governments and companies to create measurable economic benefits. These organisations make improvements, predictions, comparisons and justifications with the data generated to have a holistic picture of their business and structure their future plans.

Why is data so tricky?

Duncan used a statistics puzzle to make his case. There are three doors, behind which are two goats and a car. You pick Door A, hoping for the car. A gameshow host inspects Doors B and C, and opens one with a goat, (if both have goats, he picks randomly). Do you stick with door A, or switch to the unopened door? The odds aren’t 50-50, you’ll win 2/3 of the time if you switch.

Sounds weird? People think that each option has an equal probability and conclude that switching doesn’t matter, but this mindset is wrong. Using statistical simulation, scientists explain the reason and this is the moment data shows its value when it tells us the answers.

We then discuss how advantageous the data is and what we can exploit through data. Nowadays, data is important to the changes in the business landscape. Many discussions revolve around the importance of data management in an organisation to explore the impact on people in the organisation, and the interpretation of data for communication in the business. Data always plays an indispensable role in decision-making, problem-solving and efficiency improvements.

Final thoughts

Data is powerful, inexplicable and interesting when we delve into the world with numbers. From this session, I know that data is all around us in our daily life and it can be generated in any form. Data itself is meaningless, but the context behind the numbers is priceless. 

In my opinion, the world of data management is evolving rapidly, especially with the advancement of digital transformation and the rise of machine learning. As a business student, knowing that good data management creates a competitive advantage for a company and it is the new trend which has become pivotal in almost every business today.

If you are not using data to uncover insights for your business, you will soon be replaced and become a business in the past!

Discover more about our Postgraduate courses, and Chua’s course MSc Management of Information Systems and Digital Innovation.