They assembled in business attire, graduate students from FIU College of Business’ Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS), about to finish up over a year of intense coursework in business analytics. They knew they could benefit from an opportunity to put their newly acquired knowledge to work for a real-world company.
The company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., wanted to see how a fresh analytical look at social media posts about their brand could shed new light on customer preferences, and help them define new markets.
The organization that put these two groups together: the ATOM Think Tank.
ATOM, which stands for Analytics, Technology and Operations Management, is FIU Business’ innovative technology consulting practice. Its goal is to bring FIU Business’ analytics-savvy faculty members and students together with companies who need help solving their data challenges. Thanks to ATOM, students, guided and mentored by faculty experts, have the opportunity to explore business problems through data and find solutions that companies may not see. And in an era when volumes of information are produced in the course of business every day, understanding patterns and trends behind data is an essential component to business success.
Miami-based Royal Caribbean came to ATOM seeking input on a data challenge. Under the guidance of Assistant Professor Lina Bouayad, the faculty member who led the project, students were asked to analyze a set of social media posts about behavior and usage patterns on Royal Caribbean ships relating to customer experiences over a given period of time. The goal for students: use the intelligence provided by the program to help RCCL see data patterns that could help define new markets and find influencers.
Students appreciated the opportunity to use a wide spectrum of the skills they had learned in the program. They discovered that unlike examples they’ve seen in the classroom, real data isn’t clean or simple, and doesn’t yield obvious solutions – and it took patience to keep looking for patterns, but ultimately, it was worth it.
After hearing students’ insights, Royal Caribbean’s data managers engaged with them in a dialogue about the findings, an exchange of perspectives that both students and the RCCL team appreciated.
Karlene Cousins, founding director of ATOM, who now chairs the Information Systems and Business Analytics department, noted that the experience was a proving point for the tools students had learned and practiced all year, and a key turning point in the transition from students to full-fledged business analytics professionals.