Data analytics, one of the defining business tools of the 21st century, isn’t just for big firms. But sometimes, small firms that want to use the tools need a bit of guidance.
That is where the ATOM Think Tank comes in. ATOM, which stands for Analytics, Technology Consulting and Operations Management, is FIU’s first faculty technology consulting service. The program, which resides in the Information Systems and Business Analytics Department, is overseen by associate professor Karlene Cousins. ATOM provides experiential learning opportunities for students of the Master of Science in Information Systems program, of which Cousins is the director.
“We want to see small businesses grow by providing advice on how to incorporate state-of-the-art technology and analytics into their organization,” said Cousins.
The aim is to let smaller companies lacking an IT department, or that are understaffed, gain the advantage of aggregating and parsing the data that increasingly arrives as customer information and product feedback. Firms use that information for everything from product development to predicting customer behavior.
Big companies with IT departments could also use the new FIU service, said Cousins. “They might have a powerful IT infrastructure but don’t have time for new projects, or they don’t have the human resources, so those projects can spill over into our think tank.”
First project underway.
Cousins credits the idea to department chair Monica Chiarini Tremblay, who stays in close touch with industry trends and needs. A faculty member and graduate student work together for each client.
ATOM, which officially launched in September, is a non-profit and will be supported through its own work. Its first signed client, Global Health Intelligence, provides market research to the Latin America and Caribbean health care industry, managing the largest hospital demographics database in Latin America, which includes more than 12,000 hospital profiles throughout the region.
Global Health Managing Director Guillaume Corpart said the firm considered many potential partners, from IT specialists to database consultants. “ATOM was the only team to propose a full end-to-end solution with database experts that had the qualifications and credentials to ensure positive implementation free of surprises,” he said.
ATOM creates a proposal for each company geared to its individual needs.
“A lot of powerful technologies are now available using the Cloud — at very affordable prices — but companies may not know how to leverage them,” Cousins said.
The first project is being overseen by Nicole Wishart, senior instructor in the Information Systems and Business Analytics department, along with graduate student Vaishnavi Preethi Elluru.
The program provides a chance to stay current with what businesses actually face every day, Wishart said. “This definitely flows into the classroom, as it provides the impetus for the examples I reference, and the exercises I create.”
Relevant and actual experiences, she said, engage student interest and help ensure that they are being adequately prepared for the world outside the university.
Businesses also know that ATOM is neutral when it comes to recommending any product or solution. “They can trust us to be open-minded and unbiased as we formulate a solution customized for their best interests,” she said.
Professional experience builds skills, helping students prepare for the competitive real world, said Elluru, who expects to graduate in March, 2016. “Working with clients gives a better hands-on experience, in-depth learning of technologies, and a better and clearer vision of how a project runs.”
The program has the goal of four projects for its first year.
Beyond that, said Cousins, plans are afoot for collaborations with other FIU departments. So far, ATOM has collaborated with Jacqueline Sousa in the Small Business Development Center at FIU to provide services for Global Health Intelligence.
“Basically, we are leveraging our community of scholars,” said Cousins.