Methodology for Fortune’s ranking of online business analytics programs

BY Lance LambertJanuary 19, 2022, 7:20 AM
Illustration by Martin Laksman

Businesses are hard at work figuring out how they can deploy the ungodly amounts of data they’re amassing. NFL coaches now use data models to help decide play calls, while human resources officers are using data to completely overhaul the hiring process. But if the data models are built wrong—or misunderstood—the business consequences can be massive. That’s the lesson executives at Zillow learned first-hand after they shut-down their algorithm-driven home flipping business in November. Zillow’s data model was so flawed that it overpaid for homes at a scale that forced the company to write-down more than $540 million in losses.

Avoiding the Zillow-type catastrophes is why it’s critical that companies hire skilled business analysts who understand how to use analytics models to solve business problems.

Fortune set out to identify the best programs for the next generation of business analysts. In December, Fortune invited schools to participate in our first-ever ranking of online business analytics graduate programs. In total, we ranked 12 business analytics master’s programs.

Our final ranking is made up of three components: Selectivity Score, Demand Score, and Brand Score.

Selectivity Score (65%)

The best business analytics programs have both world class professors and a top-notch curriculum. But that’s not all: They should also attract some of the brightest students. The post-college success (or lack of success) of those alumni helps to shape how the outside world will view that program. It’s also why Fortune put so much weight on the strength of a school’s incoming class.

To calculate the Selectivity Score, we started by looking at the average undergraduate GPA of incoming students. In addition, we looked at the average number of years of work experience (the higher, the better) of those same students.

Finally, we weighted the program’s acceptance rate. Simply put: Programs that are challenging to get accepted into, attracted a stronger cohort of students.

Demand Score (15%)

If programs aren’t successful, they won’t be able to continue to attract and graduate top students year in and year out. Not to mention, a larger student body also means a larger alumni network. That’s why we measured both the total enrollment size of the program, and the number of applicants for the most recent year.

Brand Score (20%)

Fortune partnered with Ipsos to survey thousands of business professionals and hiring managers to get their thoughts on specific business schools. Ipsos deployed a survey methodology similar to what it would use if asked by a consumer brands company to evaluate its brand strength. For this research, Ipsos interviewed a total of 2,500 professionals. These professionals work in a corporate role, have attended college and/or an institution of higher education, and know at least two of the schools in our selection.

Ipsos completed the fieldwork between March 16 and March 24, 2021. The total length of each interview was 13 minutes. The results yielded a 95% confidence interval, which gives us a maximum ±1.96% margin of error. This analysis was done on a regional basis. The exception being the nation’s top 20 business schools (according to U.S. News & World Report’s latest ranking), which we also measured on a national basis.

The final score produced is a business school’s attitudinal equity (AE) measurement. That tells us, according to Ipsos, “how much a group of people want to recruit from the university. It is the university’s share of mind.” (For more on attitudinal equity scores, go here.)

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best business analytics programs, data science programs, and part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.