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Do you feel like you’re always thinking in 140 characters?

Microblogging platforms have skyrocketed in popularity in the last decade. As of August 2018, Twitter had over 335 million active monthly users, while Weibo, the Chinese social media giant, had over 431 million users. What makes these platforms so enticing to billions of people?

Xue Bai, associate professor with dual appointments in the Departments of Marketing and Supply Chain Management and Management Information Systems, investigated why these short-form social media platforms can be so addictive, together with researchers from Renmin University and Tsinghua University, in her recently published paper.

Bai and her colleagues analyzed the habits, uses and desires of 520 microblogging users. They found that users often used the platform for three distinction purposes: communication, information gathering and entertainment. Then, the researchers took the study deeper by distinguishing the levels of gratification, or the reasons why users feel satisfied when using the platform. Bai classified gratification into three categories: when people are satisfied due to the content they consume or share, the process of using the platform and the social needs they look to fulfill.

“Before, the commonly accepted understanding was that use leads to addiction,” says Bai. “But it turns out in our study, it is how you use it and how you feel from the use of it that leads to addiction.” For example, Person A might use Twitter more than Person B, but if Person B feels more satisfied when using it due to her particular purpose, she may be more likely to become addicted, regardless of time spent on the platform.

The theory behind the study, called “uses and gratifications,” is a common approach to analyzing mass media. However, by distinguishing between the “uses” and “gratifications,” Bai and her colleagues extended the theory to study the causal relations between use, gratification and addiction, opening up new possibilities for media research.

The researchers hypothesized that users with higher gratification levels have a great possibility of becoming addicted. “This constant feeling [of satisfaction] leads to psychological reinforcement and then eventually to dependence,” says Bai. The researchers then linked gratification to four dimensions of addiction—diminished impulse control, loneliness or depression, social comfort and distraction—to determine the path from use to gratification to addiction tendency.

The study found that the different types of purposes led to varying levels of gratification. “For example, if a user is using the microblogging platform mostly for information, information leads to content gratification and social gratification,” says Bai. Using microblogging for entertainment purposes led to satisfaction with social interactions and their experience of the process. The purpose for social communication, surprisingly, yields the least satisfaction among the three types of use.

“Social gratification, however, was the most impactful to addiction,” says Bai. Users who were satisfied from the social aspects of the platforms were more susceptible to loneliness, diminished impulse control and distraction, and were the most likely to be addicted. “Users who felt satisfied with content were the least likely to become addicted,” said Bai.

With the pervasiveness of microblogging tools, these insights are practically important to both consumers and platform designers. Bai hopes her research will help address the issue of social media addiction by understanding more about how these tendencies are formed. “We hope this will guide platform designers to better construct microblogging platforms to enhance the positive effects and avoid the negative impacts,” says Bai. “The research can inform the design of a platform to satisfy users’ needs at an optimal level, not to the point of being addicted.” For example, companies could use this research to emphasize content gratification, which has the least impact on addiction tendency.

Certainly, microblogging will not be going away, says Bai. “It is changing the way people, especially teenagers, communicate with each other and socially interact with the rest of the world.”

Learn more about Fox School Research.

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Blockchain and the Future of Accounting

May 24, 2018 //

Reprinted with permission from the Pennsylvania CPA Journal, a publication of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

CPAs must be aware of emerging technologies that have the potential to disrupt their profession. Blockchain technology is one of them. Blockchain streamlines trans-action accounting and enables real-time reporting and real-time audit. We are still at the early days of the technology, but considering the potential impact on the profession, CPAs need to understand what this new technology will bring.

Blockchain technology has been in the headlines of several publications and a hot topic at conferences. Many see in it a platform that has the potential to disrupt a vast array of industries. Still, there is tremendous confusion about the technology and how it is supposed to replace existing technologies. Generally, blockchain consists of a distributed ledger system that operates on a consensus basis, empowering peer-to-peer networks with a more secure and efficient way to transact, record, and analyze transactions in real time. This feature focuses on the status of the technology and its potential implications for our profession.

What Is Blockchain?

First known as the distributed ledger system behind the bitcoin digital currency, blockchain technology has evolved rapidly with the proliferation of competing products (Ethereum, Ripple, Digital Asset, among others). It is now considered much more than a digital currency infrastructure. According to technology research firm Gartner, there are more than 70 blockchain platforms on the market and at various stages of maturity.1

Blockchain is a type of highly secure, distributed ledger system accessible via a public or private network, where each server on the network has a copy of the system. Data is replicated among all servers on the network in real time and is encrypted. Each time data is recorded (from an authorized user, device, or machine connected to the system), it is validated by a consensus mechanism, time stamped, and recorded on a block – sort of a file of data, like a ledger page. To ensure that data is not tampered with, each block is “attached” or linked to the previous block by a cryptographic algorithm called a hash. Blockchain draws its name from this concept of chronological series of “hashed” blocks of safeguarded data that form a chain. The system is highly secure. To alter the data, hackers would face a much higher level of complexity due to the consensus and hashing algorithms, but also because a hack would have to attack all the servers at the same time.2

Here are some of the benefits of blockchain:

  • Authentication of transactions or exchanges of information
  • Peer-to-peer transactions or exchanges of information without an intermediary or clearinghouse
  • Automated and highly secure record keeping
  • Smart contracts: automated contract execution and processing when conditions are met, based on algorithms
  • Real-time audit capabilities
  • Registry and tracking of the ownership of assets

Conflicting Views on Blockchain

Blockchain tends to generate two conflicting views: enthusiasm and skepticism. As is often the case, there is likely some truth in both positions. Large-scale adoption of the technology might be a matter of how quickly the concerns raised by skeptics will be addressed by the promoters.

Blockchain enthusiasts believe that the technology will become the infrastructure of choice for managing exchanges of value moving forward, just as the Internet provided the infrastructure for managing exchanges of information.3 They say it will profoundly change the way transactions are processed, recorded, and analyzed. They believe that blockchain technology is moving fast (faster than we might imagine), and the time to learn and experiment with the technology is now.

For the skeptics, the technology seems too good to be true, and that currently it is not trusted by users or regulators. They caution that it is not mature, not scalable enough, and lacks standards. They add that there is significant risk if credentials are compromised or stolen, and there are concerns it might be vulnerable to programming errors or system weaknesses (such as the vulnerabilities behind the scandal of the popular bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, in 2014).4 They argue that there are insufficient controls in place to ensure that the system is functioning as intended.

The technology seems to be advancing quickly to address the concerns, and some new consortia have emerged (including Hyperledger, R3, Hashed Health) to accelerate the definition of industry standards and foster collaboration. New approaches to security and privacy controls for the technology also are starting to emerge.5

How Real Is It?

Business and technology leaders across multiple sectors of the economy are envisioning potential applications of the technology in many areas. Financial services firms have started to deploy the technology, mainly in experimental projects. The small steps are testing the technology in selected areas, such as identity management, cross-border payments, and currency exchange transactions. The number of use cases has increased significantly over the past two years, not only in the financial services sector, but also in utilities, manufacturing, supply chain, health care, telecommunications, and government. Use cases (“proof of concept” projects) range from global trade and payments to secure document and records management (such as voting records, mortgage loan records and documents, medical records, intellectual property, and so on) or digital asset management (including stocks, bonds, derivatives).

In a recent report, Gartner says blockchain is at an early stage of its development, with highly fragmented solutions and a lack of industry consensus on the functional and technical scope of the technology.6 Gartner has identified what it thinks will be characteristic of blockchain platforms:

  • A distributed ledger that serves as an authoritative record of significant events (which can include monetary transactions, but not solely limited to that use case)
  • A (theoretically) immutable, tamper-proof, uncensorable record
  • Cryptographic algorithms and consensus protocols ensuring data consistency
  •  An ability to record additional state information beyond recording transaction data
  • Programmability, from simple scripts to more powerful programs such as “smart contracts” that can generate transactions
  • Trust in a third party or centralized entity for certain functions, such as identity management or access control to a closed, private network

Blockchain aims to provide a digital infrastructure that will enable users to create and exchange value (not just money) across global peer-to-peer networks. The full disruptive potential of blockchain will come from its combination with other technologies, such as mobile computing, the Internet of things, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Blockchain will likely be part of the infrastructure that will empower these technologies as they come together in the new digital economy. This means that interoperability and standards will play a critical role for the technology to achieve its potential.

Potential Implications for CPAs

Double-entry accounting has been the basis for financial reporting for businesses throughout the world since the middle ages. However, in order to trust accounting records, costly reconciliations, confirmations, verifications, and audit procedures must be performed by the firm and its counterparties, as well as by auditors. Blockchain facilitates the innovation of a triple-entry accounting system; a system whereby all transactions are cryptographically sealed by a third entry and reside in a shared ledger. The third entry serves as a digitally signed receipt for the parties involved in the transaction, which can be verified without the need for a central certifying authority or a clearinghouse.

The implications of blockchain are potentially transformative, affecting CPAs in accounting, audit, tax, and advisory services. Big Four and large professional services firms already recognize the importance of blockchain. Deloitte, for example, recently announced a blockchain team of 800 professionals in 20 countries to develop applications in banking, cross-border payments, trade, and finance.7 PwC notes that blockchain may “structurally alter shared practices between customers, competitors, and suppliers.”8 For example, blockchain can improve the accuracy and efficiency of the billing and payment process, potentially minimizing disputes that arise from errors or missing invoices. Rather than sending a traditional invoice to a customer, Firm A shares invoices directly with the accounts payable department of Firm B, in real time, on a multiparty digital ledger.9 With the use of smart contract technology, Firm B could automatically pay the invoice after the computer confirms receipt of goods and checks for sufficient funds in the bank account.

Blockchain may extend far beyond accounts receivables and payables. In a recent article,10 Jun Dai and Miklos A. Vasarhelyi discuss how blockchain, coupled with smart-contract technology, could be used to automatically initiate performance-based compensation to managers based on predefined criteria. They also discuss how blockchain could be used to automate revenue recognition based on algorithms and data from shipping activities recorded in the blockchain ledger system.

Blockchain transactions are time-stamped and immutable, so auditors would benefit from traceable trails and the automatic authentication of transactions. Deloitte notes that the standardization created by blockchain could allow auditors to verify vast numbers of transactions underlying the financial statements automatically.11 For example, if complete data on inventory activity is recorded in a blockchain ledger system, auditors could determine the inventory balance remotely and in real time. As a result, the audit would evolve significantly, allowing auditors to spend more time on value-added insights, such as predictive analytics, internal control improvements, and other areas requiring human judgment and complex problem-solving.

Blockchain-based automated audits would also allow financial statement users to access information more quickly, more efficiently, and at the appropriate level of detail. Company management and auditors, for instance, may need full access to the data in the distributed ledger system, while investors may only need access to high-level financial summary information and key financial metrics such as revenue growth, profitability, and earnings per share.

Channing Flynn, a global technology leader at EY, speculates on the disruptive implications for corporate taxpayers, tax authorities, and tax practitioners – assuming the hurdles to widespread adoption are overcome.12 For example, transactions recorded in a real-time blockchain system would facilitate automatic tax reporting, and government tax authorities could streamline or accelerate certain tax computations and payments. As a result, Flynn can see certain tasks of tax advisers shifting from tax compliance administration to tax-knowledgeable blockchain systems expertise.

CPAs practicing in advisory services also would be affected. In the same way that CPAs have been assisting clients with accounting system implementations and system control audits, CPAs are likely to be involved in or solicited for advice on blockchain systems adoption, implementation, and integration. There will be growing demand for cybersecurity and tech-based audit expertise around blockchain, as well as blockchain system implementation. CPAs are well positioned to play a role in these areas.

What You Should Do

CPAs in practice and industry should become knowledgeable about blockchain technology and how it might affect their firm or business, as well as the CPA profession in general. Significant developments are expected in the near feature, and it is critical that CPAs keep up to date and prepare for potential disruptions. This includes incorporating blockchain in your strategic planning process and engaging in conversations with your technology vendors and partners about their own plans regarding the technology. Blockchain is in the early stages of implementation, but some professional services firms are already leading the way in collaborating with the tech industry to realize its benefits. EY, for example, recently announced the launch of EY Ops Chain, a set of applications and services to help firms leverage blockchain technology to enhance operations and drive growth.13 KPMG LLP and Microsoft announced a partnership to create a series of innovation workspaces and other initiatives dedicated to developing use cases and applications of blockchain technology.14 

For CPAs looking for opportunities to learn more about blockchain, the PICPA plans to enhance its course offerings. Also, several other organizations offer training programs and online resources, such as O’Reilly Media’s Safari (CPAs who hold a CITP credential and members of the AICPA Information Management and Technology Assurance section have unlimited access to this learning platform), Lynda.com, Edureka, Udemy, or Microsoft Virtual Academy. For example, Edureka offers an online certification training program for a fee. These instructor-led classes provide case studies and access to a platform that uses programming language to setup a private blockchain environment. Microsoft Virtual Academy, on the other hand, provides free online courses on a variety of topics, including distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and decentralized applications.
Blockchain may be in its infancy, but CPAs should become knowledgeable about it and its disruptive potential for the profession. The automation, high degree of security, and instant verification features of blockchain technology are expected to transform the way transactions are executed, recorded, authenticated, disseminated, and analyzed. Should the full potential of blockchain be realized, CPAs will likely need to transition from compliance and verification activities to providing value-added services that require more human judgment, analysis, and critical thinking.

1 Gartner Research Note, “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017: Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers,” March 21, 2017.
2 For more on blockchain and how it works, check out the EY video at www.ey.com/gl/en/services/assurance/ey-reporting-blockchain-and-the-future-of-audit or read “Building Blocks: How Financial Services Can Create Trust in Blockchain,” PwC, May 2017. www.pwc.com/us/en/financial-services/publications/financial-services-blockchain-trust.html
3 Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott, “How Blockchain Will Change Organizations,” 
MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2017, Vol. 58., No. 2.
4 Robert McMillan, “The Inside Story of Mt. Gox, Bitcoin’s $460 Million Disaster,” 
Wired, March 3, 2014; P.H. Schumpeter, “Bitcoin’s Woes – Mt Gone,” The Economist, Feb. 25, 2014.
5 Robert E. Samuel, “A Layered Architectural Approach to Understanding Distributed Cryptographic Ledgers,” 
Issues in Information Systems, 17.4 (2016); A. Michael Smith, “Creating Assurance in Blockchain,” ISACA Journal, Vol. 2, 2017.
6 Gartner Research Note, “The Evolving Landscape of Blockchain Technology Platforms,” March 2, 2017.
7 “Deloitte Launches Blockchain Lab in New York, Increasing Focus on Key Technology in ‘Make-or-Break’ Year,” Deloitte press release, Jan. 12, 2017. www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/press-releases/deloitte-launches-blockchain-lab-in-new-york.html
8 “PwC, 2016. “What’s Next for Blockchain in 2016?” Fintech Q&A, a publication of PwC’s Financial Services Institute, January 2016. www.pwc.com/us/en/financial-services/publications/viewpoints/assets/pwc-qa-whats-next-for-blockchain.pdf
9 Cesar Bacani, “Blockchain Will Revolutionise the Profession,” 
Accounting and Business, May 1, 2017. www.accaglobal.com/us/en/member/member/accounting-business/2017/05/in-focus/cb-may17.html
10Jun Dai and Miklos A. Vasarhelyi, “Towards Blockchain-Based Accounting and Assurance,” 
Journal of Information Systems, 2017 (In Press). https://doi.org/10.2308/isys-51804
11 “Blockchain Technology: A Game-Changer in Accounting?” Deloitte, March 2016. www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/de/Documents/Innovation/Blockchain_A%20game-changer%20in%20accounting.pdf
12 Channing Flynn, “Preparing for Digital Taxation in a Blockchain World,” 
International Tax, Bloomberg BNA. Nov. 28, 2016. www.bna.com/preparing-digital-taxation-n73014447764
13 “EY Infuses Blockchain into Enterprise and Across Industries with Launch of EY Ops Chain,” EY press release, April 26, 2017. www.ey.com/gl/en/newsroom/news-releases/news-ey-infuses-blockchain-into-enterprises-and-across-industries-with-launch-of-ey-ops-chain
14 “KPMG and Microsoft Announce New ‘Blockchain Nodes,’” KPMG press release, Feb. 15, 2017. https://home.kpmg.com/us/en/home/media/press-releases/2017/02/kpmg-and-microsoft-announce-new-blockchain-nodes.htm 


L. “John” Alarcon, CPA, CGMA, CITP, is chief financial officer for LoanLogics Inc. in Feasterville-Trevose and is a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at john.alarcon@loanlogics.com.

Cory Ng, CPA, DBA, CGMA, is an assistant professor of instruction in accounting at the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia and a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at cory.ng@temple.edu.

“Life is a boomerang,” exclaimed Anthony J. McIntyre, BBA ’80, during his keynote speech Thursday for the Fox School of Business’ 2018 graduation ceremony at Temple University’s Liacouras Center.

McIntyre, speaking to more than 1,200 Fox School undergraduate and graduate students earning degrees, as well as an arena packed with friends and families, was discussing how important it is for those who are successful to give back.

This was one of the many lessons offered to the Class of 2018 by McIntyre, the chairman of the Mid-Atlantic region for international insurance brokerage and risk management firm Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., and a member of Temple’s Board of Trustees.

Find Out Where These 2018 Fox School Grads Are Going Next

He also discussed the importance of finding the right work-life balance, and spending time with family while simultaneously achieving professional goals. The Temple alumnus referred to his own family as an “Owl Family”—his wife and one of his daughters also graduated from Temple.

McIntyre talked about the importance of taking risks. “When you take risks, you reach your full potential,” he said, nodding to the innovative spirit of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. And he emphasized that taking risks makes you a better, stronger leader.

The student speaker was Kasey Brown, BBA ’18, a Management Information Systems major and member of the Association for Information Systems, a student professional organization.

Kasey Brown, BBA ’18.

“Like many of you,” said Brown about her time at the Fox School, “I discovered I had a deep desire to use the power of business to serve the poor. Here at Fox, I found my own definition of greatness right there, at the intersection of business and service. Right in the sweet spot between skill and kindness, hard work and charity.”

Brown’s next move will be to Wisconsin, where she will work as a Catholic missionary.

“Though your journey toward greatness may be confusing and challenging and hard to explain, one thing I know for sure is that, thanks to the Fox School of Business, you have everything you need to reach it,” Brown said. “You are an exceptional group of people, with endless talent, and an unquenchable thirst for helping others—and you’ve already changed the world.”

For more stories and news, follow the Fox School on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

The Fox School of BusinessCenter for Student Professional Development (CSPD) has a commencement tradition. Toward the end of every semester, graduating students, when they secure a post-graduation job, ring a bell and publicly announce who their soon-to-be employer is and what their new position will be.

It’s a great way to declare, “I did it! And this is what I’m doing next!”

Temple University’s commencement, which will include hundreds of undergraduate students receiving BBA’s from the Fox School, is this week. So we asked several members of the Class of 2018 to share with us their new jobs and some inspiring stories about their time at Fox and Temple.

 

 

Kasey Brown, BBA ’18

Major: Management Information Systems
SPO: Association for Information Systems
New Job: Summer staff missionary, Catholic Youth Expeditions

New Uplifting Experiences: “First and foremost, I’m excited to grow in my Catholic faith. Temple gave me a beautiful opportunity to discover this faith, and I feel so blessed to work for an organization that allows me to grow and discover even more. Secondly, I have always had a special place in my heart for high school students and young adults. I remember what a difficult time of life it can be, and I look forward to being with them and help them in any way I can. In addition, working with Catholic Youth Expeditions means getting to learn more about how to serve the poor and how to love others—and there’s nothing more important to me.”

Helping Others: “Temple and Fox gave me the opportunity to hone my skills—not only in business, but also in communication, time management, leadership, crisis management, critical thinking, and teamwork. More importantly, Temple and Fox helped me discover the reason why I wanted to do business: to serve others. I know that in whatever job I do, it’ll never be just a job. It will be an opportunity to use my skills to help others and give back all I’ve been given here.”

 

William Clark, BBA ’18

Major: Finance
New Job: Financial analyst, Revint Solutions

Perfect Launching Pad: “As I progressed through my lower-level BBA core classes, I realized I had a passion for analyzing underlying financial data. I have been a math and science guy as early as the second grade, so pursuing a career centered around financial analysis seemed like a natural fit. A financial analyst position is the perfect launching pad for a long, successful career in corporate finance.”

Love at First Sight: “I fell in love with Fox from the moment I attended my first course. I had the privilege of being taught by some of the best professors in academia, within a modern building full of the latest finance-based technology. The Capital Markets Room was one of my favorite places at Fox, as I was able to hone my skills in Bloomberg, FactSet, and VBA programming, among other things. I was able to attain valuable knowledge that allowed me to separate myself from the crowd.”

 

Alexa Ann Gerenza, BBA ’18

Major: Marketing
SPO: American Marketing Association
New Job: Group ticket sales associate and service coordinator, New York Yankees

A Lifelong Fan’s Dream Job: “I’ve been a Yankees fan my entire life and to now have a job that always seemed so unrealistic it’s still hard to believe. Moving to NYC and having my office at the stadium and my work schedule based around game days, is less typical, yet so very exciting. This is an entirely new lifestyle than one I expected to have post-grad, but I’m beyond excited for the journey ahead.”

Finding Confidence (and Forever Friends!): “The American Marketing Association has given me my forever friends and motivated me to work harder in everything I do. It has given me more opportunities than I ever imagined, including two trips to the AMA International Collegiate Conference in New Orleans, leading Temple’s chapter as vice president to success as a top five chapter, touring the Facebook office in NYC, and competing in an eBay sponsored case competition. Without the lessons learned and the experiences gained, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to send the initial LinkedIn connection to the Yankees and jump on the first phone call, which ultimately led to the position.”

 

Kyshon Johnson, BBA ’18

Major: International Business
New Job: Business Leadership program/Global sales associate, LinkedIn

Linking Up with LinkedIn: “LinkedIn is my dream company. I was able to tour the San Francisco office in 2016 and made a promise to myself I’d work there. I felt the company and culture aligned perfectly with my passions and life purpose. Initially, I applied for a summer internship and was rejected. I used that experience as motivation and an opportunity to improve my professionalism. I interned at Comcast and gained industry experience before applying for my full-time role. I am confident LinkedIn and the Business Leadership program will groom and mold me into a successful business woman.

The Fox School Network: “I am thankful for the resources and support that Fox and Temple have provided during my undergraduate experience. Fox has a strong alumni network filled with professionals throughout the world. I utilized the alumni network to connect with Owls within the technology industry. I was able to meet with individuals that work at Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. They were all enthusiastic to assist me in landing a role at their companies. This professional foundation allowed me to explore career options and connect with amazing individuals.  

 

Katherine Taraschi, BBA ’18

Major: Marketing
New Job: Owner, O bag (King of Prussia Mall)

An Italian Vacation Inspires a Career: “O bag is an Italian company that creates interchangeable bags and accessories that customers can build in the store. It’s a store my friends and I were completely obsessed with when we visited Italy last spring. We visited six different locations all over Italy and one in Budapest. O bag King of Prussia will be located on the first floor of the Plaza between Lord and Taylor and Nordstrom.”

Benefits of a Real-World Curriculum: “I love that the professors at Fox all have real-world experience. Hearing different situations that they’ve encountered embedded in course topics gave a different perspective to the lessons—and definitely helped prepare me for my new position as a business owner.”

 

Lindsey Thompson, BBA ’18

Major: Human Resource Management
SPO: Net Impact; Society for Human Resource Management
New Job: Compensation analyst, Day & Zimmermann

A Passion for Philly… and Data: “I’m so excited to continue to live in my favorite city (Philadelphia), work with coworkers I have formed connections with during my internship at Day & Zimmermann, and to dive into the details of data in a field I’m passionate about.”

Involvement Pays Off: “The professors in Fox’s HR department, as well as other schools throughout the university, are some of the kindest and most knowledgeable people I’ve met. I can’t thank them enough for passing on their extensive industry knowledge, their warm and understanding natures, for making me think, and for serving as mentors. My leadership position with Net Impact and my role as a Teaching Assistant taught me the value of detail orientation, time management, effective communication, and remaining open-minded. I would suggest to any undergrad to get involved outside of class, because it has really added to my experience here at Temple!”

 

Ian Usher, BBA ’18

Major: Management Information System
SPO: Association for Information Systems
New Job: Media-Tech associate, NBC Universal

Becoming a Tech Leader: “I’m incredibly excited to start working for NBC Universal. While working for NBCU last summer, I discovered the company has a wonderful culture where I feel engaged and valued, even as a young employee. During that time, I became good friends with other interns, and it will be wonderful to continue to grow those relationships. The Media-Tech Associate program is a very demanding program, but it’s designed to give us the skills necessary to become future technology leaders.”

A Professional Journey Began at Fox: “Throughout my career at Fox, I was pushed to think logically, clearly, and critically to solve many real business problems. I was fortunate to work on projects with real companies, from startups like PoundCake to major organizations like CHOP. Completing these projects and learning how to interact with professionals helped me excel during my internship and prepared me for the workplace more effectively than if my classes were purely lecture-based. I was a poor writer before coming to Temple, and Fox classes like Business Communications have helped me improve my writing skills dramatically. That’s been critical thus far in my professional journey.”

Learn more about the Center for Student Professional Development.

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Last month, a team of four Fox School juniors took a road trip to the University of Missouri-St. Louis to compete in the 2018 International Business Case Competition. They placed second and returned to Temple with a cash prize of $500.

The Fox School team—consisting of students Tyler Ascione, Sonali Patel, Nathan Pham, and Tarun Sangari—was one of the 12 teams to participate in the live competition sponsored by Nidec Motor Corporation and judged by business leaders from the St. Louis area. The challenge focused on developing strategies for the Japanese company to position, sell, and introduce its new FORECYTE sensors used for monitoring the vibrations and temperature of motors. The team was given the case Friday evening, and had to develop strategies and provide two rounds of presentations to the judges the next day. It was a hectic 24 hours.

“We had to figure out how to consolidate our ideas and put together a cohesive PowerPoint deck within the 24-hour time limit,” the team said. “In the first four hours, we individually researched and tried to get a holistic understanding of Nidec’s business model and the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ industry. The next six hours, we wrote our ideas on a blackboard and deliberated our strategy. After dinner, we were all extremely fatigued, and did not have a single slide ready. However, at around midnight, we found a second wind. We began motivating each other, and our energy showed through the slides.”

The team ultimately developed a prize-winning recommendation for Nidec.

“Our solution was multi-faceted,” the team said. “First, we recommended they license out its new sensor technology to MROs (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). Then, for the next five years, we recommended they collect and analyze the data aggregated from those MROs and OEMs. Once the firm had a sufficient level of data, we suggested opening up a new line of revenue: providing insights to OEM and MRO clients. These insights would give the firms a better way to manage their human capital and assess business needs. To maintain security, we considered a distributed ledger technology, providing a way to record digital interactions that are highly resistant to outages.”

4 Most Valuable Lessons Learned

1. “The greatest lesson I learned was to accurately assess and portray different qualitative options with a quantitative model. I had struggled with recommending businesses to pursue different strategies, but I have since gained the tools to quantify the strength of one strategy over another.” – Tyler Ascione, Finance and Management Information Systems double major

2. “Participating in my first case, the greatest lesson I learned is how important it is to decide on a strategy that everyone agrees on and be able to present. It is important to ensure the strategy is a success by conducting a lot of research and having data. It took us a lot of effort to put together the case. However, at the end of the day we all worked as a team and had fun!” – Sonali Patel, Finance major

3. “My lesson was the power of teamwork and team chemistry. We were given a tough case with limited data about a new product from the company. It took us 10 hours to come up with an outline and a general strategy. By then, we were all very tired. But once we came together, each of us tried to motivate each other by talking and even joking around. It seemed trivial but some late-night laughs helped a lot in keeping us up and finishing the presentation. Because we liked each other and understood unique strengths of each team member, we were able to overcome difficult challenges and have a lot of fun along the way.” – Nathan Pham, Management Information Systems major, Finance minor

4. “The greatest lesson I learned from the case was how important it is to tell a story with your numbers. While having a ton of great data is very helpful to support your argument, having the ability to analyze that data and present it in an interesting manner is far more important than anything else.” – Tarun Sangari, Finance and Accounting double major

Learn more about the Fox School’s undergraduate programs.

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The Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management faculty continue to be active, innovative, and impactful in the research community.

Anthony Di Benedetto published papers in Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Global Scholars of Marketing Science, and European Journal of Innovation Management.

Angelika Dimoka published a paper in Journal of Business Research. Dimoka is the director of the Neural Decision Making Center. She also has grants from Office of Inspector General—USPS and National Science Foundation—Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences.

Nathan Fong published papers in Marketing Science, Journal of Interactive Marketing, and Management Science.

Subohda Kumar published papers in Production and Operations Management, Information Systems Research, and Information Systems and Operational Research. Kumar received a Best Paper Nomination at the INFORMS Conference on Information Systems and Technology, and another for INFORMS eBusiness Best Paper Award.

Xueming Luo published papers in Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Journal of Consumer Psychology, and Personality and Individual Differences. Luo is the director of the Global Center for Big Data and Mobile Analytics and is serving as the Conference Chair of the 40th Annual INFORMS ISMS Marketing Science Conference. The American Marketing Association ranked Luo as 15th among all authors in the world for the 2008-2017 period in the top two premier American Marketing Association Journals and 21st among all authors in the world for the top four premier marketing discipline journals.

Maureen Morrin published a paper in Journal of Retailing and is publishing a book chapter in Brand Touch Points. She is the Director of the Consumer Sensory Innovation Lab. Morrin received a grant from the Center for Sensory Sciences and Innovation at Rutgers University. Morrin was selected as a Doctoral Consortium Faculty Research Fellow for the Association of Consumer Research conference and received an Outstanding Reviewer Award from the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.

Susan Mudambi published a book chapter in B-to-B Marketnfuhrang: Grundlagen, Konzepte und Best Practices [B-to-B Brand Management: Fundamentals, Concepts, and Best Practices].

Crystal Reeck published a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and has a book chapter accepted in Handbook of Process Tracing Methods in Decision Making. Reeck has grants from Temple Brain Research Initiative, Scientific Research Network on Decision Neuroscience and Aging, National Science Foundation—Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, and Environmental Defense Fund.

Ed Rosenthal published a paper in Omega (United Kingdom).

Joydeep Srivastava published a paper in Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Vinod Venkatraman published papers in Developmental Review and Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. Venkatraman also has a book chapter accepted in Handbook of Process Tracing Methods in Decision Making. He has grants from Office of Inspector General—USPS, Temple University Office of the Vice President for Research, and Temple Center for International Business Education and Research.

Howard Weiss published a paper in Omega (United Kingdom).

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Angelika Dimoka’s job is to get inside your head.

As the director of the Center for Neural Decision Making at the Fox School of Business, Dimoka finds how you make the choices you do—and she does not need to ask you.

Instead, she looks to the human body for answers.

A trained biomedical engineer and neuroscientist, Dimoka came to the Fox School in 2008 to study how people make decisions. From air traffic controllers to victims of traumatic brain injuries to average consumers, Dimoka and her colleagues investigate—and predict—our everyday choices.

Getting inside your head

In 2008, Dimoka established the Center for Neural Decision Making, the first neuroscience center located within a business school, and currently the largest such center in the country.

“[The Center’s goal] is to provide a more objective understanding of the driving forces of a subject’s decision making,” says Dimoka, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Marketing. In the past, researchers have had to rely on self-reported data, asking consumers why they choose this product or made that decision. This, however, left room for error, as perhaps the consumer could not—or would not—divulge the true reason for their decision.

Today, with state-of-the-art tools like eye tracking machines, heart rate monitors, and MRI scanners, the Center’s research eliminates the subjective bias of decision-making research. “We don’t have to ask the subject anymore,” says Dimoka. “We can observe their physiological state.”

Dimoka and her colleagues, Vinod Venkatraman and Crystal Reeck, assistant professors of marketing, use these tools to study the body’s responses in experiments like the ability to recall print ads versus digital ads.

“With eye trackers, we can observe where the subject is looking at any given point,” says Dimoka, allowing the researcher to understand exactly what information the subject is taking in at what time. Heart rate monitors, skin conductors, and breathing monitors analyze the person’s emotional state—whether you sweat more, breath heavier, or have a faster heartbeat when making a decision.

Angelika Dimoka

What the brain reveals

The Center also has a new functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, brought to campus this fall in partnership with the College of Liberal Art’s Department of Psychology and with support from the National Science Foundation. “The fMRI scanners show us the brain’s functionality,” Dimoka says. “We can put people in the scanner and observe how their brains function when they make decisions.”

The areas of the brain that activate during different activities can reveal how consumers take in information and make decisions. Consider what happens when a person looks at a physical advertisement versus a digital advertisement. In a series of experiments funded by the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Postal Service, Dimoka and her colleagues studied subjects’ brains as they reviewed ads in both print and online formats.

“The area of the brain associated with memory, the hippocampus, showed higher levels of activation for ads that subjects had seen before in a physical format,” says Dimoka, “as opposed to digital ads.” By using the brain scanning tools, the researchers found that print is still sticky, even in today’s digital age.

The third phase of the experiments are currently underway. Dimoka says this new round will further investigate generational differences and brand awareness.

Are there any differences between the purchasing decisions of Millennials and Baby Boomers when looking at online versus print ads? “We did find some preliminary results [from earlier experiments] that were quite interesting,” Dimoka says, “and the opposite of what you would expect.” The full results will be published later this summer.

Real-world impact

The Center investigates all kinds of decision making—including consumer, financial, and privacy decisions—that can have real impact on average people and companies. The impact of their work extends from marketing to fields like management information systems and finance.

For example, Crystal Reeck, assistant professor of marketing, found that how you review your choices during the decision making process can impact your ability to be patient. She is currently working on a study that involves how people disclose private information.

Companies are also affected by the Center’s work. “By looking at the brain of how 30 subjects were responding,” says Dimoka, “we can predict how millions of consumers in the United States would decide.”

“That’s the magic, the power of these tools.”

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The Fox School of Business is making history—and driving real impact.

On Monday, March 12, the Fox School hosted a first-of-its-kind forum that brought together editors-in-chief of leading academic business journals across multiple disciplines. The 2018 Editors’ Summit united academia and industry, researchers and executives, students and educators, for a day of dialogue on a way forward to generate transformative impact of business school research.

With leadership from Charles Dhanaraj, director of the Fox School’s new Translational Research Center, over 150 people discussed the opportunities for creating impactful research and barriers standing in the way.

Fox School faculty and doctoral students were joined by editors from prestigious business journals from many disciplines, including management, marketing, accounting, finance, operations, management information systems, and international business; colleagues from Villanova University, the Wharton School, and Northwestern University, among others; and executives from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, LyondellBasell, and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Here are five key takeaways from the event:

1. Define impact

What do we mean by “impact” and how do we measure it? “It has to meet the qualifications of rigor, relevance, insights, and action,” said V. Kumar, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Marketing and Regents Professor at J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.

While a definition of impact may remain elusive, participants identified its signs: from small shifts in how companies work and academia teaches, to societal, economic, and public policy changes.

Anne Tsui, president of the Responsible Research Leadership Forum, noted that this discussion about impact was a large step. “In the last 20 or 30 years, rigor began to dominate research and relevance began to decline,” she said. “Today, we’re here to discuss this gap.”

2. Ask the right questions

“Just because something hasn’t been studied doesn’t mean that it should,” said Tyson Browning, co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Operations Management and professor at Texas Christian University. In order to study issues that affect business, researchers need to know the right questions to ask.

Researchers can develop relationships with businesses, through programs like Fox Management Consulting, or invest in listening platforms to identify what problems businesses face.

Bhavesh Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell, put it another way: “Think about what value your work will create from the beginning. If you do it early, it will guide the work you do.”

3. Know your audience

“In reflecting about practical impact,” said Arun Rai, editor of MIS Quarterly and professor at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University, “we need to think about partnerships with complementary channels to reach audiences that we do not have core competencies to reach.”

Executives are not reading academic journals, nor should we ever expect them to. If academics want their research to have impact on the real world, they should think beyond publications and about distribution.

“In the Twitter and soundbite era, no one wants to read a 40-page paper,” said Dr. Scott Bauguess of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “They want the major takeaway.” His suggestion? Write white papers and stylized facts.

Practitioner journals, trade magazines, and popular media like newspapers and TV can also be relevant channels to getting research insights into industry. Mary Barth, senior editor of The Accounting Review and professor at Stanford University, also recommended translating research into thought pieces that are understandable to non-academics. To do that, however, researchers need a new set of skills—like marketing or social media strategies—that require training or support from the school.

4. Adjust the infrastructure

A recurring theme throughout the day was incentives. How can business schools incentivize faculty to produce research that has impact, not just publications? How can editors affect trends in what is published to promote relevance?

Participants brainstormed solutions for both. While structural changes take time, discussions centered on adjusting tenure requirements and timelines, defining impact, creating industry partnerships, hosting workshops with executives, providing funding incentives for research with practitioners and non-tenure-track faculty, and publishing special issues in journals that focus on bundled topics.

Alain Verbeke, editor-in-chief of the Journal of International Business Studies and professor at University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, put it bluntly: “If you really want change, you can’t do it with the existing structure and processes.”

5. Teach the future

Students cannot be neglected in the conversation about impact. “One way we take our research articles and ideas and make them relevant to practice is by teaching them in our classes,” said Jay Barney, editor-in-chief of the Academy of Management Review and professor at the Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.

Constance Helfat, co-editor of the Strategic Management Journal and professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, agreed. “Every single thing I teach is based in academic research. And it works.”

The Fox School is already addressing the way forward. M. Moshe Porat, dean of the Fox School, affirmed his commitment to research and doctoral education throughout the day.

With support from the dean, the Translational Research Center has big plans for the future of research at the Fox School. The center plans to develop a white paper of the findings from the event and is hosting a case-writing consortium for faculty interested in writing and submitting a teaching case through the summer.

“The shift toward impact is a significant one, but it will take time,” said Dhanaraj,. “We will need everyone to make this big move.”

Learn more about Fox School Research.

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Students who earn degrees in information systems (IS) earn higher starting salaries than fellow business-school counterparts. And they benefit from one of the fastest national placement averages.

These statistics are just some of the findings from the latest edition of the Information Systems Job Index, produced by researchers from Temple University’s Fox School of Business, in partnership with the Association for Information Systems (AIS).

Published and released in January 2018, the third installment of the IS Job Index culled the responses of 2,140 IS graduates of the Class of 2017, from 58 universities nationwide.

Some of the index’s more-interesting findings include:

  • Salaries for IS undergraduates ($62,820) are the highest among students who pursue typical business majors ($52,047).
  • The percentage of women in IS jobs (39%) is more than double that of women in other STEM fields like computer science (18%).
  • Internships double the likelihood of an IS student getting a job offer (39% for those who hold at least one internship vs. 16% for those who do not).

“There are more than 3 million IS jobs in the U.S. alone,” said index co-author Dr. Munir Mandviwalla, associate professor of management information systems (MIS) at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “This data is critical for parents of college-age children, current and prospective students seeking an accurate job outlook, employers, and policymakers—and it cannot be found anywhere else.”

Mandviwalla conducted research for the latest installment of the IS Job Index and co-authored it with Dr. Crystal Harold, associate professor of human resource management at Temple’s Fox School of Business, and Maria Boggi, a junior MIS major in the Fox School and Temple University Honor’s programs.

The AIS-Temple Fox School Job Index is the only systematic assessment of the IS job market. It is a joint project, with support from AmerisourceBergen and LiquidHub, to produce reliable national-level data on placement, job type, satisfaction, and related factors like career services, knowledge level, preparedness, and search strategies.

More: To read the Information Systems Job Index, visit isjobindex.com.

Interview requests: Please send requests to Christopher A. Vito, associate director of communications & media relations, Temple University’s Fox School of Business, at cvito@temple.edu

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Gordon Burtch/Carlson School of Management

It started as a casual conversation with a friend.

That is how Dr. Gordon Burtch, PHD ’13, says he decided to obtain his PhD in management information systems (MIS) at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. He was already working as a consultant with an undergraduate degree in software engineering. A doctoral degree, he thought, would help him harness the experiences he had in the business industry and explore research in an entrepreneurial way.

Today, he has received two of the top honors available to young scholars.

At the end of 2017, Burtch received both the Early-Career Award from the Association of Information Systems and the Sandra A. Slaughter Early Career Award from the INFORMS Information Systems Society. Both awards recognize individuals in the early stages of their careers who have already greatly contributed to the field of information systems through research, teaching, or service.

As an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, Burtch focuses on understanding what drives people to contribute online—such as supporting a crowdfunding campaign or donating to a charity. He analyzes website data to model and predict consumer behavior, explores social factors like the influence of peer groups, and designs interventions that aim to encourage people to get involved in online campaigns.

While Burtch says these awards are quite the honor, he credits his experience at the Fox School with much of his success today.

“I was given the freedom to explore collaborations with whomever I wanted,” Burtch explains. After multiple collaborative research efforts, including with senior associate dean of research Paul Pavlou, Burtch found his niche working with Dr. Sunil Wattal, associate professor in the MIS department.

In working with Wattal, Burtch discovered an interest in econometrics and was able to expand his research expertise under the guidance of his mentor. Being at the Fox School, he says, gave him resources and ability to experiment until he found his forte.

Now, Burtch is seen as an emerging leader in his field. Not only is he dedicated to his research efforts, but he also takes time to mentor students. “I always tell my students,” he says, “to start from the business problem first and work backwards.”

While the awards are an honor, Burtch is not complacent. His research direction is constantly evolving, but Burtch hopes to expand his research to support the public good. He plans to apply his insights to stimulate positive social behaviors, such as encouraging people to volunteer or donate money to charities.

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The Philadelphia Eagles are headed to the Super Bowl for the third time in franchise history.

Experts from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) are available to discuss the following subjects relating to the Super Bowl: advertisements; city pride and team branding; consumer behavior; economic impact; event production; risk management; social media; sport betting; ticket markets and availability; and tourism impact.

For interview requests, email Christopher A. Vito at cvito@temple.edu.

ADVERTISEMENTS
Dr. Paul A. Pavlou, Senior Associate Dean of Research, Doctoral Programs and Strategic Initiatives, Fox School of Business
Dr. Angelika Dimoka, Associate Professor of Marketing and Management Information Systems, Fox School of Business
Available to discuss: Neuromarketing research using fMRI brain scans to identify the anatomy of the brain that significantly better predicts the success of TV advertising.

Dr. Subodha Kumar, Paul R. Anderson Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Fox School of Business
Available to discuss: The effectiveness of Super Bowl advertising, as well as social media analytics and web analytics as they pertain to the Super Bowl

CITY PRIDE/TEAM BRAND
Dr. Thilo Kunkel, Assistant Professor of Sport and Recreation Management, STHM
Available to discuss: The Eagles’ Super Bowl appearance and its spill-over effect on the civic and community pride, and team branding

CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
Dr. Joseph Mahan, Associate Professor and Chair of Sport and Recreation Management, STHM
Available to discuss: Sport-related consumer behavior, like the extent to which the Super Bowl will inspire merchandise and ticket purchases, TV viewership, etc.

ECONOMIC IMPACT
Dr. Jeremy S. Jordan, Associate Dean, STHM
Dr. Daniel C. Funk, Professor and Washburn Research Fellow, STHM
Available to discuss: The economic impact of major sporting events

EVENT PRODUCTION
Ira Rosen, Assistant Professor of Tourism and Hospitality Management, STHM
Available to discuss: Event production, entertainment booking, client account management, and service consulting

RISK MANAGEMENT
Michael McCloskey, Assistant Professor of Risk, Insurance, and Healthcare Management, Fox School of Business
Available to discuss: Riot and civil authority risk management and security around large-scale events

M. Michael Zuckerman, Associate Professor of Risk, Insurance, and Healthcare Management, Fox School of Business
Available to discuss: Risk management around large-scale events, including terrorism readiness

SOCIAL MEDIA
Amy Lavin, Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems, Fox School of Business
Available to discuss: Social media’s role in coverage of the Super Bowl and other large-scale events

SPORT BETTING
Dr. George Diemer, Assistant Professor of Sport and Recreation Management, STHM
Available to discuss: Sport economics, including odds and probabilities and sport betting

TICKET MARKETS
Dr. Joris Drayer, Associate Professor of Sport and Recreation Management, STHM
Available to discuss: Supply and demand of Super Bowl tickets and secondary ticket markets that include StubHub, Seat Geek and others

TOURISM IMPACT
Dr. Robert Li, Professor of Tourism and Hospitality Management, STHM
Available to discuss: Destination marketing, and the mechanisms through which a location (like a Super Bowl host) can market itself to support tourism and travel

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This was a busy—and for some, award-winning—fall semester for the Fox School research community!

On October 18, the Office of Research, Doctoral Programs, and Strategic Initiatives hosted its 7th Annual PhD Paper Competition in the MBA Commons of Alter Hall. This year, 31 doctoral students and alumni submitted papers and created visual posters of their research to compete for more than $3,000 in cash and prizes.

Papers were evaluated by Fox School faculty, who chose winners in categories including first year, second year, and third-to-fourth year doctoral students. Students also competed for best dissertation proposals and completed dissertations. The 15-member evaluation committee judged the rigor, novelty, and presentation of the research, as well as its contribution to theory, practice, or policy.

Lauren Spirko, assistant professor of Statistical Science/PhD candidate

Winners included Lauren Spirko of the Statistical Science Department, who won first place in the completed dissertation category for her paper proposing a statistical method for analyzing enormous data sets of genes and their various types of expressions. See a full list of participants and winners here.

On November 1, the Office hosted its 15th Young Scholars Interdisciplinary Forum, which aims to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborative research projects that span disciplines within and outside of the Fox School. Together, twenty Fox doctoral students and faculty members received nearly $35,000 in grant funding for their research.

Han Chen, a Marketing and Management Information Systems PhD student, received a grant for her research aiming to understand the neurophysiological responses to branding and marketing with respect to age. The funding will go toward the purchase of eye-tracking glasses to monitor subjects’ eye movements when reviewing physical and digital advertising materials.

Terry T. Namkung, DBA student

The Executive Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) program also had students succeed this semester. Terry T. Namkung, a first-year DBA student and CEO of DC Energy Systems, was chosen as one of seven finalists in the 2017 Global Business Challenge. He presented his research—an energy panel that aims to reduce energy waste by 30% by decreasing the inefficiencies of Alternating Current to Direct Current adapters, converters, and inverters—in Brisbane, Australia, in early November.

Carla Cabarle, a second-year DBA student, showcased her work at the Fall 2017 Meeting of the Institute for Fraud Prevention. As one of five finalists, Carla presented on using analytics to predict the risk of financial statement fraud in crowdfunding to academics and industry experts in financial risk and fraud management.

On behalf of Paul Pavlou, senior associate dean of research and Milton F. Stauffer Professor in the Fox School, the Office congratulates the doctoral students and faculty on a very successful fall semester.

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Eleven alumni leaders share insights on how technology is shaking up today’s major industries and constantly reshaping business possibility.

You can’t open a magazine, a newspaper, or Twitter now without encountering a story about the rise of artificial intelligence and how this will impact businesses and economies around the world. Will the robots displace workers, leaving behind a massive trail of catastrophic unemployment? Or will the relationship be more harmonious as robots optimize productivity and maximize efficiency boosting both the bottom line and free time for us humans? Nobody knows. But one thing is for certain: Technology has brought and will continue to bring radical changes and thrilling opportunities for business innovation industry-wide. To get a firmer grasp on how some of the major industries and fields of business are positioning themselves for the future, we asked 11 Fox School of Business alumni leaders—representing a variety of industries from finance and professional sports, to transportation and healthcare—to examine what’s on the horizon and to share their insights.

James Poyser (Photo: Jim Roese)

MUSIC/ARTS

James Poyser, BBA ’92
Grammy Award-winning musician, The Roots
“Advances in technology have totally changed how music is made, performed, taught, marketed, and sold. Hit records are not only made in studios anymore, but in bedrooms, basements, and even on smartphones. Traditional instruments are being replaced with digital ones (check out a Stro Elliot video on YouTube). Artists are foregoing the traditional route of signing to record labels, and putting their music out online or finding other ways to collect payment. And more changes are coming, too. The rules keep changing and evolving. What new advances are in the future? I know they’re coming. How will we create music in the future? How will we listen to music in the future? How will we purchase music? Actually, will music even be purchased anymore? (This is when it gets scary: Do I matter anymore? Is there any value left in music?) Whatever changes take place, I believe those that adapt to the changes, keep their heads on a swivel, or have the mindset to change, will be positively affected.”

ACCOUNTING

Eric Salfi, BBA ’91
CPA, Partner, Cwienkala & Salfi
“Many CPAs didn’t know how to deal with QuickBooks when it was first released and it put them out of business—the advances in technology and the way accounting is done now has changed even more dramatically since. We’re moving toward strictly cloud-based activities where there’s more interaction and my clients send documents and information through a portal. The accountant’s role has evolved, too. It used to be about bookkeeping—handling bank statements, creating financial reports, and so on. QuickBooks, and now cloud software, eliminated all the people sitting in a room somewhere compiling this information, but it still requires an expert to manage the software. The accountant has evolved and, for me, it’s more of a business consultant role now. Clients don’t just need me to prepare a tax return; I now have deeper relationships with my clients and I act as a personal advisor, helping them value new businesses or solve cash flow problems. One of the big issues, as information’s moved to the cloud, is cybersecurity. There’s more data accessible now, so creating a safe, encrypted portal that allows clients to interact with us is essential. You need to adjust and adapt with technology or you’ll be left behind. I look forward to embracing whatever changes come next.”

INSURANCE

Adam Lyons, BBA ’09
Founder & Chairman, The Zebra
“Technology has changed and is changing insurance, though no one would hesitate to admit the industry was painfully slow to welcome the insurtech revolution. At the Zebra, we’re a technology company in the insurance space, and we believe the right technology, applied by people who truly understand the profound complexities of the insurance industry, can create efficiencies which simplify everything from assessing risk to distribution to claims management and beyond. We’ve seen incredible developments in the property and casualty insurance industry, like peer-to-peer insurance and pay-per-mile models, and we’re creating an insurance search engine where consumers can access, understand, and use all of these innovations. We’re creating essential technology which informs and educates consumers so they can understand their options and make the right decisions for their unique needs. Environmental factors are critical as well, but they’re unpredictable. Still, we’ve seen trends showing an increase in devastating storms, most recently Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, for example, which just reaffirms the need for people to have the resources to find the right coverage for their circumstances to protect themselves.”

REAL ESTATE

Bob Rosenthal, BBA ’85
Partner, Envision Land Use
“Real estate, like everything, is in the middle of the internet revolution. Philadelphia was dead 20 years ago, back when I went to Temple. There was a void between City Hall and the suburbs—then the millennials came. The parts that have grown, like Fishtown, used to be manufacturing areas, and the buildings have now been repurposed. Everyone talks about the retail change and how people now buy online, but the same has happened in everything from healthcare to office space. What once was a retail center is no longer a retail center; this battle’s been going on for years in the city and is now hitting the suburbs. I’m 57 and right now I’m working from my car on an iPhone. People don’t need office space the way they did—with a lobby, a huge campus, and a front desk—especially younger people without ties to old ways of doing business. And when the millennials come back to the suburbs—which they’re already starting to do—they want lifestyle options just as they do in the city. They want to be able to easily Uber or walk to a bar or a restaurant. So even in new developments in the suburbs, we’re aiming to make these changes. With more businesses moving online and changing needs, land uses change so quickly that governing authorities can’t keep up and many aren’t willing to change. People are always frightened of change, but we must keep moving forward and adapting.”

GOVERNMENT

Heather Qader, MBA ’16
Manager of Business Development, City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce
“Technology is slowly changing local government for the better. Philadelphia, like other cities, is realizing that to compete at a global and national scale, it must adapt its infrastructure. These adaptations look like the digitization of SEPTA’s ticketing system, installation of Indego Bike Share citywide, parking kiosks that allow the use of cards instead of change, and an overhaul of the City of Philadelphia website to create a more user-friendly interface and allowing for more public engagement and user ease. With every new administration, personnel changes occur and there is a transitional period required to get new personnel up to speed. One initiative that has survived the Michael Nutter administration and is currently embraced by the Jim Kenney administration is StartupPHL, a platform that funds worthy initiatives and connects startups to resources in the Philadelphia tech ecosystem. The most recent StartupPHL call for ideas round funded five organizations with $100,000 to train instructors, supply equipment, and teach children the technology skills that they need to be globally competitive. We are keeping up—not as fast as many of the lean startups here in Philadelphia—but progress is being made.”

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Salvatore DeTrane, BBA ’93
Managing Director, Empactful Capital LLC
“Most innovation in healthcare technologies in recent decades has been in medical devices, drug therapies, and medical diagnostics. These have led to people living longer, more productive lives. The downside is these advancements have resulted in a financially unsustainable cost trend. The next frontier is entrepreneurs disrupting healthcare with innovative information technology solutions. There have been massive investments in the last 15 years in electronic health records, claims systems, genomics, social determinant data, and big data software. Some of the innovation opportunities include practical applications of machine learning, natural language processing, intelligent workflow advancements, and advanced analytics that offer actionable insights. Proactive interventions will enable healthcare providers and payers to better manage care, reduce healthcare costs, improve quality, and assess risk of managing populations and encourage business model evolution. With the expected increase of today’s industry expenditures in the U.S. from $3.5 to $5.5 trillion by 2025, this transformation will prevent a financial crisis. All payers—whether health plans, employers, or consumers—are demanding more efficient and effective healthcare and transparency. The industry now stands at a pivotal moment. It must transform into a system that leverages these data/IT investments to support better, more informed decisions by each major constituent. And I think Temple, given Fox’s programs and its health system and medical school, is positioned to support the innovation required to transform our healthcare system.”

Getty Images

SPORTS

Joe Heller, BS ’05
Vice President of Marketing, Philadelphia Flyers
“Broadcast coverage of live sports events continues to evolve and advance at a rapid rate. Viewers are getting more access to their favorite teams and players through virtual and augmented reality, cable cams, and GoPro cameras. In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see dedicated channels allowing viewers to experience the duration of a live game straight from a players helmet through a virtual reality headset. This could be similar to the way motorsports has cameras mounted on cars, or the NHL on referees and players at the All-Star Game. Stadiums and arenas will be continually challenged on new ways to adopt VR/AR into their venues, improve WiFi, provide charging stations in the seats, show live video helmet feeds on the big screens, and alike, to bring the comforts and expectations of home viewing to the game. From an NHL team perspective, the Flyers recognize we’re becoming our own media company by placing a greater emphasis on content about the team, connecting players and fans through mobile platforms, providing behind the scenes access, and much more. As tech advancements are made, pro sports will continue to look for new ways to be early adopters and integrate them into event coverage, for home viewers and in arenas and stadiums.”

TRANSPORTATION

Marco Herbas, MBA ’15
Whole Securitization Funding, Ford Motor Company
“Self-driving cars are an inevitable reality that will disrupt and transform the industry for its incumbents as it opens new doors for non-traditional, automotive value-chain players able to purvey hardware and software that enable interconnected and autonomous vehicles (AVs). AVs, along with mobility and continuous development of electrified powertrains, are creating a paradigm shift in the lengthy, bureaucratic processes engrained in traditional automakers’ decision-making, essentially forcing them to become more agile in their product and systems development lifecycles to emulate these potential tech entrants. The notion of AVs is not only disrupting the auto industry, but the transportation ecosystem as a whole. Some examples may include public transportation, where cities may have to partner with automobile purveyors to deploy fleets of self-driving vehicles, as well as insurance providers where AVs create a safer commuter environment, meanwhile curtailing risk and impacting insurers’ revenue streams. Ford has communicated it intends to pursue automotive and high-growth mobility businesses. In 2016, senior leadership announced the company would commence mass production of level-4 autonomous vehicles by 2021 available for ride-sharing/ride-hailing services. Key underpinnings include the launch of the next generation Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Development Vehicle, the creation of its mobility division, as well as its acquisition of Chariot, an app-based, on-demand shuttle service. And Ford is investing $1 billion in start-up Argo AI to further its advancement in AV development by leveraging the startup’s robotics technology.”

CYBERSECURITY

Andrew Bertolazzi, EMBA ’97
Vice President, Ronin Security Solutions LLC
“Seaborne shipping accounts for approximately two-thirds of global trade, with over $4 trillion worth of goods transported annually. One of the major challenges the industry faces—increased global competitiveness, new regulations, reliance on automation, etc.—is security. This includes compliance with layers of domestic and global requirements, physical security, and protection of the supply chain. But the most insidious risk with the potentially greatest impact is cybersecurity. The industry, both afloat and on land, is increasing the level of automation across the value chain to improve efficiencies, reduce cycle times, enhance safety, and drive down cost. The greater use of technology leads to the need for increased knowledge and specialized tools, as well as the risk of breaches and compromises. A recent example of cybercrime’s impact on global shipping is the Petya ransomware attack, whose disruptions cost over $300M to one of the world’s major shipping companies. The federal government and industry associations are working to raise awareness and offer assistance to organizations across the supply chain through focused outreach, education, and grants. And the private sector is improving cybersecurity through assessments, training, and adding specialized security tools, processes, people, and consulting support. Each organization must evaluate the amount of resources of time, people, and funding needed to appropriately address the threats. The level to which they’re able to do so will determine the impacts and stimulate innovations in technology, business processes, and approaches to security.”

HEALTH

Ron Iller, BBA ’93, MBA ’95
Director at Large, Fox Alumni Association
Director, Product Management-Analytics and Data Discovery, Change Healthcare
“The move to value-based care and risk-based contracting within the healthcare market has changed the game. It’s about providers and payers applying data and analytics to effectively provide better care at the lowest cost. Overall, it will be a very positive change in terms of working to improve outcomes. The focus will be on the individual and patient populations, and how their level of health impacts the cost of the system. Organizations will focus more on keeping people healthy as opposed to getting them healthy by utilizing care management programs and other forms of outreach. Change Healthcare will inspire a better healthcare system and deliver wide-range financial, operational, and clinical solutions to payers, providers, and consumers. I’m focused on helping hospitals and health systems move from fee-for-service to a value- or risk-based payment model. This involves taking a broader view of the patient or population, either in terms of payment, health status, or access to care, not only within the walls of the hospital, but extending to the broader community. We do this by providing a data platform for health systems to acquire and aggregate massive amounts of data at scale and then applying analytics in the transition to value-based care. The data we gather and what we can do with it will continue to improve with new technology, and ultimately allow us to improve the quality of care we provide even more.”

FINANCE

James Sanders, EMBA ’12
President-elect, Fox Alumni Association
Vice President, Commercial Lending, Customers Bank
“Fintech is providing access to capital, especially to small businesses, at a right-now rate. People are getting loans on mobile devices and it happens quick. Mobile and cloud technology, whether people use it to bid on contracts or communicate with employees, is helping small businesses evolve faster. It used to be more difficult to start a small business; now there are infinite online resources people can tap into. You can watch a YouTube video that will tell you how to do it (but, keep in mind, that won’t help you when it comes to actually executing a successful business). Small business owners are getting younger, too. There’s a lot of buzz around millennials and how they have a fresh way of thinking and handling business. With platforms like Etsy, eBay, Amazon, and Instagram, there are many ways to make money. My son started a tech company; he designed the app and everything. I’m very optimistic about the future of small and medium sized businesses—they’re the backbone of America. Their names aren’t plastered on the highways when you’re driving downtown and you may not see them on TV or the internet. But they’re everywhere and they’re creating and driving new industries and opportunities.”

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Vast amounts of data are generated every day – about 2.5 quintillion bytes according to estimates from IBM.1 This “big data” originates from numerous sources: from individual social media posts and text messages, to corporate supply chain management activities and financial transactions. Businesses are gaining valuable insights through the analysis of all the data they can gather.

According to a CGMA survey of more than 2,000 finance professionals around the world, 87 percent of respondents said that data analytics will transform the way business is done in the next 10 years.2 The same survey, however, found that only 48 percent believe that they have the skills within their organizations to take advantage of the opportunities that data presents. This article focuses on how CPAs can leverage the power of data analytics coupled with data visualization to improve decision-making.

A major factor in gaining a competitive advantage in today’s globalized business environment is the quality of a firm’s decision-making.3 Imagine the strategic decisions that a CFO could make with the ability to predict the optimal price to charge a customer on a particular day. Suppose controllers could accurately predict the collectability of a receivable based on a customer’s credit score. Or think about the level of assurance that an auditor could obtain by analyzing entire data sets rather than samples. All of the aforementioned scenarios are possible today thanks to data analytics and visualization software, and you do not need to be trained as a data scientist or information technology (IT) professional to leverage these tools.

Data Analytics

Data analytics is the process of examining big data for the purpose of gaining insight. There are four key characteristics of big data, often described as the four Vs: volume, variety, velocity, and veracity. Volume is the number of records in the data set. Variety refers to the types of data, and the data set must contain more than one file type to be considered big data. Velocity describes the speed with which the data is generated. Notably, a key characteristic of big data is that it constantly grows – often at a rapid pace. Veracity refers to the certainty of the data. Large amounts of data may not be useful for decision-making unless the data is clean and accurate.

In recent years, data analytics has gained immensely in popularity. Advances in technology, the decreasing cost of data storage, and innovation in the marketplace has earned the practice wide recognition from businesses. Data analytics provides managers with greater insight into business operations, creating a positive reinforcing cycle. As more meaningful insights are obtained, businesses start tracking and capturing new and additional data points to analyze. The results are more robust data sets and insight, leading to additional questions and theories, requiring more information to be captured and analyzed to answer them.

Data analytics can be applied in many disciplines, such as marketing, monitoring business transactions, or even identifying potential fraud and corruption. It opens new windows of opportunity for generating business intelligence and helping businesses run more efficiently and effectively. There is a wide variety of data analytics software tailor-made for specific industries, including health care analytics to identify waste and reduce costs at hospitals, energy analytics to predict surges in electricity usage to ensure adequate supply, and weather analytics to anticipate environmental conditions to help farmers improve crop yields.

By using data analytics, businesses can considerably reduce the time, effort, costs, and, most importantly, likelihood of errors associated with manual review. In addition, data analytics can be executed in real time on an entire population instead of relying on a sample, providing valuable insights to help businesses detect nefarious activity. For example, companies like Visa can review every single credit card transaction in real time and use rule-based monitoring systems to flag suspicious transactions. Banks can leverage real-time transaction monitoring systems to identify potential money laundering and terrorist financing.

Data analytics not only streamlines operations, it is also more useful and efficient for detecting fraud compared with traditional, manual methods. Instead of spending time performing detailed transactional testing, data analytics allows auditors to focus on performing higher-level risk analysis. Moreover, data analytics allows auditors to review the entire universe of transactions and attain greater confidence about whether or not material misstatements exist in the financial statements.

Data analytics can give auditors access to real-time information, allowing them to proactively get in front of issues and quickly devise remediation strategies. For example, during an internal audit, running data analytics on disbursements, sales activity, product returns, and expense report data can tease out information and suspicious patterns that are indicative of potentially fraudulent activities and behavior. Trend analysis of payment data can help CPAs immediately identify peaks and valleys indicating abnormal payments and any other anomalies in the data that warrant additional investigation.

One of the most critical characteristics of data analytics are traceability and repeatability. It provides a documented step-by-step audit trail of executed analyses to demonstrate how the conclusion was formulated. This can be a valuable benefit for independent parties, such as regulators, in reviewing the work of auditors. If necessary, an independent party can repeat the analyses and reproduce the same results.

For CPAs providing consulting services, data analytics can be used as a targeted exercise to run high-impact analyses to identify areas with the highest risk. This enables project teams to narrow the investigative focus and significantly save time. This is referred to as a top-down approach, where data analytics is applied to the universe of data to cull it down to a targeted population. Data analytics can also offer a holistic analysis, or viewing a problem in a broader context, when information is linked and consolidated from disparate systems and data sources. Through data aggregation and analysis techniques, information is no longer isolated, allowing data relationships and correlations to become more easily identifiable.

Data Visualization

Insights from data analysis are not always easy to glean, and can be equally difficult to share. But the analysis can be enhanced with visualization. “A picture is worth a thousand words” is a common expression that underscores the important connection between visual imagery and cognition. Humans can make sense of an image much quicker, and often more effectively, than text. In fact, the brain is capable of processing visual images in as little as 13 milliseconds.4 Another study found that presentations using visual aids are 43 percent more persuasive than unaided.5 Data visualization is simply the representation of data in the form of a picture or graph.

For decades, CPAs have created visual representations in the form of bar charts and pie graphs to communicate financial results. Today, a rapidly growing field of data visualization takes advantage of the intersection of visual imagery, big data, and advances in technology. CPAs should leverage data visualization given their important role in communicating and using data for decision-making.

Data visualization facilitates communication and understanding of complex relationships, and it can help managers identify patterns. Making sense of large, complex data sets for decision-making is one of the challenges facing business managers today.6 CPAs who can effectively communicate insights gained through data by using visualization tools stand poised to gain a competitive advantage.

Sophisticated and inexpensive software has made data visualization accessible to just about anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. But Scott Berinato, in the Harvard Business Review, warns users to avoid the temptation to simply “click and viz” without understanding the purpose and goals of visualization.7 Berinato suggests that users consider two questions: Is the information that you have conceptual or data-driven; and do you need to make a declaration or explore something? If the answer to the first question is conceptual, then you will want to visualize qualitative information. If data-driven, you are likely going to plot quantitative information.

Berinato describes four types of visual communication: idea illustration, idea generation, visual discovery, and every day “dataviz.” The goal of idea illustration is to clearly communicate complex information by relying on visual metaphors or basic geometric shapes.8 For example, consultants will often use a metaphorical tree in diagramming decisions that can be made. As another example, organizational charts and flow charts often use geometric shapes and hierarchies to communicate the relationships of reporting responsibilities and the flow of processes.

The second type of visual communication is idea generation, or creative thinking, to solve problems and capitalize on business opportunities. Idea generation is useful for various business professionals – from finance managers looking to make strategic cost reduction decisions, to independent auditors holding brainstorming meetings to discuss the risk of fraud. Incorporating visualization as part of the idea-generation process can lead to higher-quality idea conception.

Visual discovery, the third type of visual communication, can be broken down into two categories: testing hypotheses and open-ended exploration.9 In testing hypotheses, data visualizations can serve as confirmation that a suspected relationship between variables exists. For example, an auditor that suspects fraudulent revenue recognition could use data visualization to compare a population of sales invoices to shipping documents to confirm whether or not recorded sales are supported by evidence of shipping. The second category of visual discovery, open-ended exploration, is useful for spotting trends, making sense of complex data, and performing deep analysis.

Finally, Berinato describes everyday dataviz as simple line charts, pie graphs, and bar charts that can be generated in spreadsheet software such as Excel. The data for this type of visualization is simple and low volume. The goal is typically communicating a simple message for formal presentations. Examples include quarterly profitability, income versus expense, and expenditures by percentages. Despite the simplicity, it is important that CPAs are proficient at creating and communicating through everyday dataviz because poorly designed graphs can result in unnecessary questions and failure to communicate the point.

Software

The execution of data analytics requires certain skills and software to perform. According to an EY survey, 58 percent of CFOs and finance leaders believe they need to increase their understanding of digital technologies and data analytics as a strategic priority.10 Fortunately, there is a plethora of resources and off-the-shelf software, such as SQL (Structured Query Language) and Python, to run data analytics and conduct various forms of forensic analysis. SQL and Python are programming languages used for accessing, manipulating, and analyzing data contained in databases.

The majority of CPAs are well versed in Excel, but when comparing the technical abilities of SQL and Python to Excel, the latter is less efficient and incapable of handling high-volume data analytics.

Tableau is a popular software program that is robust in graphic visualization and reporting. A free version is also available called Tableau Public. There are dozens of other data visualization programs, including Microsoft BI, Domo, and Zoho Reports, to name a few. It is important to note that software is only as good as the person using it, and it can’t replace human judgment. Software is useless without the right people asking the right questions. CPAs that are comfortable approaching unfamiliar data can use data analytics and visualization as a successful approach to problem-solving and strategic decision-making.

Education

Becoming proficient with data analytics and visualization requires an investment in education and training. Surely that is no easy task for busy professionals, but it could be a worthwhile investment. A CGMA survey found that 85 percent of respondents believe data analysis skills will enhance career options and employability.11

So how can CPAs prepare for the opportunities and challenges related to big data? The top three learning opportunities by potential for skill development are a data analytics degree, data analytics certificate, and proficiency in data visualization software.12 In Pennsylvania, there are several colleges and universities that offer analytics degrees at the graduate level.

Another option is to take data analytics and visualization courses offered through Coursera, an educational company that specializes in massive open online courses. Coursera partners with universities to offer content for free or at a low cost. For example, Coursera offers a data visualization course developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Students gain access to course materials for free, but they have the option to purchase the course and obtain access to graded materials, receive a grade after completing assessments, and earn a certificate of completion.

Many consulting firms also provide professional workshops focused on data analytics and visualization proficiency in a variety of formats, including online, traditional live-classroom instruction, accelerated 90-minute sessions, and multiple-week classes. The PICPA, too, has numerous courses available that cover data analytics.

The complexity and volume of data will only grow in the future, and surveys of business leaders highlight the importance of being able to gain insight from such data. By applying data analytics, CPAs can make sense of large data sets in a way that was not possible until recently. CPAs can add value to their organizations by leveraging the power of data analytics and visualization to recognize trends, predict outcomes, and test hypotheses. Ultimately, these skills improve the CPA’s decision-making and provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

1 “Bringing Big Data to the Enterprise,” IBM. www-01.ibm.com/software/data/bigdata/what-is-big-data.html 
2 From Insight to Impact: Unlocking Opportunities in Big Data, CGMA (2013). 
3 “Business Analytics and Decision Making: The Human Dimension,” CGMA (2016). 
4 M. C. Potter, B. Wyble, C. E. Hagmann, and E. S. McCourt, “Detecting Meaning in RSVP at 13 ms per Picture,” 
Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 76(2), 270–9 (2014). 
5 D. R. Vogel, G. W. Dickson, and J. A. Lehman, Persuasion and the Role of Visual Presentation Support: The UM/3M Study, 21 (June 1986).
6 Ramesh Sharda, Dursun Delen, Efraim Turban, Business Intelligence: A Managerial Perspective on Analytics (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2014).
7 S. Berinato, “Visualizations That Really Work,” 
Harvard Business Review, 94(6), 92–100 (2016). 
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 “Do You Define Your CFO Role? Or Does It Define You? The Disruption of the CFO’s DNA,” The DNA of the CFO, EY (2016). www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/EY-the-disruption-of-the-CFOs-DNA/$FILE/EY-the-disruption-of-the-CFOs-DNA.pdf 
11 “Business Analytics and Decision Making: The Human Dimension,” CGMA (2016). 
12 N. Tschakert, J. Kokina, S. Kozlowski, and M. Vasarhelyi, “The Next Frontier in Data Analytics,” 
Journal of Accountancy, August (2016), 58–63.


Cory Ng, CPA, DBA,CGMA

Cory Ng, CPA, DBA, CGMA, is an assistant professor of instruction and the undergraduate program director of accounting at the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is also a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at cory.ng@temple.edu or on Twitter @cngcpa.

Mason Pan is director at Control Risks in Washington, D.C., a professional services firm that specializes in compliance, forensics, and intelligence. He can be reached at mason.pan@controlrisks.com.

The authors gratefully acknowledge Steven G. Blum, CPA, CFE, CFF, a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board, for his efforts in coordinating this article.

Reprinted with permission from the Pennsylvania CPA Journal, a publication of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Does speed matter in e-commerce? How can you eliminate the harmful effects of smoking on society? How can you predict which movies will be a hit or a bust? These were the questions posed this year by the annual Temple University QVC Analytics Challenge and its sponsors QVC, Pfizer, and NBCUniversal.

Now in its fifth year, 582 students from 10 different schools and colleges across the university participated in the competition, organized by the Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT), where participants solve important industry-specific problems using data. This year’s 245 entries were judged in two categories—analytics and graphics—and winners took home $12,000 in cash prizes from the event, held Nov. 13, 2017 at Alter Hall, home of the Fox School of Business.

The winner of the graphics category was a team consisting of Charles Attisano and Luke Harding, two seniors studying graphic and interactive design at the Tyler School of Art. They worked on the NBCUniversal challenge about movie box office forecasting and produced a short video exploring the topic, which you can watch here.

“We concluded that, on average, the highest performing movies in the box office tend to be adventure films with production budgets between $100-250 million, and release dates in May, June, or December,” said Attisano and Harding. “Providing a formula for success, on average, may help a producer choose a genre, budget, and release date. One of the most important things we learned in the process is that storytelling is an integral part of the analyzing process, and that you must communicate your analysis in a clear manner.”

The winner in the analytics category was a team of four Fox School students majoring in management information systems: Ngoc Pham, Chi Pham, Run Zhu, and Jiawei Huang. They focused on QVC’s e-commerce problem, and showed how the shopping network can ship the right products at the right time to its customers. (See the winning infographic here.)

“Working with raw data is like playing a video game,” the team explained. “You have the same goal to fulfill certain tasks, and there are tons of approaches that can be used to accomplish this goal. We provided our recommendations for highly underutilized distribution centers in terms of product categories based on their sales. By implementing our recommendations, QVC could increase its sales volume in California, Texas, and Florida within three months.”

One of the most thrilling aspects of the Analytics Challenge is that participants represent many different schools and colleges across the university. This means teams approach data, analysis, and visualization in diverse ways, and they bring unique, multi-disciplinary insights to each problem.

“It was exciting this year to see how well so many students from so many different majors instinctively understood the importance of the science of data,” said Laurel Miller, assistant professor of management information systems, IBIT director, and the co-founder of the Analytics Challenge. “It was hard to pick the winners, and all the students should feel proud of how well they did.”

Learn more about the Temple University Analytics Challenge.
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