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Business analytics center to help U.S. agencies improve data access, sharing, and analysis

November 17, 2016

Terry Rakes, professor of business information technology (left), and Patrick Fan, professor of accounting and information systems
Terry Rakes, professor of business information technology (left), and Patrick Fan, professor of accounting and information systems, are two of the faculty members who research data analytics and decision sciences issues in the Center for Business Intelligence and Analytics.

The Center for Business Intelligence and Analytics (CBIA) in the Pamplin College of Business is partnering with Berico Technologies, Amazon Web Services, and others to help federal agencies find more-efficient and effective ways to share, analyze, interpret, and understand data.

The goal is to improve the access, interoperability, and search features of federal data and data services.

The joint venture partnership will work with the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and is among several such partnerships the NTIS selected to compete to provide solutions whenever federal agencies request innovative data services.

“We love forming partnerships so we can match our faculty and graduate students with the best opportunities and experiences,” said Linda Oldham, CBIA executive director. “Our faculty are extremely strong on text analytics and mining data, and this partnership will also help provide the resources to support additional graduate research assistants.”

CBIA serves as an interdisciplinary resource to support faculty research both within Pamplin and in cooperation with other centers and academic units throughout the university. The center focuses on analytics, statistics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, healthcare analytics, and other areas that seek to enhance the understanding and usefulness of big data.

“We will support this partnership with cutting-edge research on the analytics front end,” said Patrick Fan, R.B. Pamplin Professor of Accounting and Information Systems and the faculty leader for the project. “We’ll help Berico crunch data and provide insights to solve the problems and propose solutions.”

CBIA faculty members will work primarily on the research and development side of the project, providing expertise and resources in developing core analytical algorithms, frameworks, and software tools to process, analyze, and extract useful insights and knowledge from data provided by the federal government and third parties, Fan said.

Fan will act as liaison and project manager for the entire R&D process, and all CBIA faculty members will be involved in the project, contributing based on their own specialties.

The other members of the joint venture with Virginia Tech are Cloudera, MarkLogic Corporation, and Tableau Software.

“This may be the first time we’ve officially partnered with so many private companies and the government in one collaboration,” said Fan. “They wanted to work with Virginia Tech. We provide technical capabilities and talent that will really contribute to the partnership.”

Oldham hopes the partnership will lead to the involvement of more private companies in the capstone projects of students enrolled in Pamplin’s master of science in business administration business analytics concentration.

The nine-month-long capstone projects team groups of students with companies.

“Companies find this kind of work valuable,” said Oldham. “Our students develop with out-of-the-box strategies and ideas, and the students gain real-world experience.”

According to the NTIS announcement, the joint-venture partnerships will help by “making it easier for businesses, government, taxpayers, and communities to access, analyze, and use data to strengthen economic growth and create new jobs.”

NTIS hopes the project will help develop technologies, techniques, and processes that can deepen understanding and lead to new insights into the data gathered by federal agencies.

 

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