Big Data Summit draws over 500 guests to share best practices in business analytics

The sixth annual Big Data and Analytics Summit, held March 21-22 at Wayne State University, brought together a large number of top-level academic and industry leaders from across the region to discuss how big data, analytics, and artificial intelligence strategies can drive success across all industries and enterprises.

“It was our third straight year of having a sold-out event. We had more than 500 participants from over 130 companies,” said Ratna Babu Chinnam, Ph.D., professor and co-director of the Big Data and Analytics Group at Wayne State University. “The predominant feedback from industry leaders is that our event is quickly becoming one of the best in the country, making Wayne State truly a leader in the fields of big data, AI and analytics.”

The two-day conference agenda was built around 30 case studies of top practitioners in areas ranging from manufacturing, finance, retail and health care to privacy and security. Attendees also enjoyed the various tutorials, networking opportunities and panel discussions, as well as a keynote address from Paul Ballew, vice president and global chief data and analytics officer at Ford Motor Company.

“The spectrum of participants ranged from organizations well on their way to data-driven cultures and those who were just starting out on the path. People were talking, sharing and commiserating on data analytics — what a wonderful sight. Even Ford and GM were sharing with each other,” said Nick Curcuru, vice president of global big data practice at MasterCard and one of the summit’s speakers. “Wayne State has created a data community that wants to truly help the members by freely and candidly sharing their experiences, good or bad, so they can learn from each other.

“The atmosphere is ‘together we can innovate and succeed,’” continued Curcuru. “My three takeaways: 1) data engineering and master data management are coming to the forefront, 2) organizations must tie advanced analytics to the business objectives, and 3) data scientists need to communicate in plain language.”

The Wayne State community was also highly engaged in the conference with over a dozen faculty members, 30 staff members and 50 students attending. A poster session featuring 14 students’ innovative research projects across multiple disciplines was well received by the participants.

“I brought a colleague with me this year, and he commented that he took away more from the Wayne State event than many much larger events he has attended in the past,” said Jeff Sutter, global director, innovation and continuous improvement methodologies and warranty analysis at Nexteer Automotive. “I think the mix of high-level tool projects and use cases is perfect. I learn as much from hearing about ‘here’s what worked for us’ examples as I do about ‘here’s what tripped us up.’”

Provost Keith Whitfield gave opening remarks highlighting the work being done across the university in the big data sphere, while CIO Daren Hubbard announced new industry-focused collaborative opportunities. Chinnam gave updates and promoted the master’s program in data science and business analytics, a collaboration between the College of Engineering and the Mike Ilitch School of Business.

The next annual Big Data, AI and Analytics Summit is scheduled for March 19-20, 2020. For full program details, visit