a year ago

Coding for business professionals

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Given the need for problem-solving and automation across industries, business professionals are eager to learn coding to boost efficiency. Coding is no longer a skillset reserved only for professionals working in fields related to computer science. The integration of coding in business procedures relieves professionals from doing repetitive tasks manually and lets them design simple frameworks to materialise goals set. This article aims to highlight why business professionals need to familiarise themselves with coding, how it improves business functionalities, and what extent of knowledge they would benefit from acquiring.
Keeping up with industry needs: Globally, a significant proportion of listed jobs aimed at business degree holders state that 'analysing' data is key to their role. This applies to job titles across domains of finance, project management, and sales such as 'market analyst', 'research and business development analyst', and even job titles that do not have the word 'analyst' in them. Employees in such roles regularly scrape and clean data before extracting insights, use coding to automate internal processes, and interact with software professionals to communicate business needs. It is unsurprising that many of these job advertisements list familiarity with programming languages (such as Python, SQL, and HTML) as a preferred qualification since employers want businesspeople heavily involved in the process of materialising ideas hands-on. Business professionals well-versed in coding essentially act as the bridge between software engineers who deploy their technical skills to materialise ideas and top-level executives who formulate and revise company goals. Given the industry needs, it is only a matter of time before these trends will be commonplace in Bangladesh.
Coding across business functions: Every business function including marketing, finance, and human resources has scopes of automation where coding can be used. "The moment an employee is repeatedly executing the same steps at fixed intervals, it is a signal that there are scopes for automation there," says Ishmam Chowdhury, the head of strategy at Shikho, a leading ed-tech firm in Bangladesh. Working in strategy mandates that he and his team need to comprehend how data flows within the organisation and how to integrate them for making inferences. "As Shikho is an ed-tech firm, an experience in coding will give us a top-view understanding of the app and website that the end-users get - this lets us imagine all the future possibilities and elements our platform can have while also figuring out innovative ways to address limitations," he explains.
Baseline knowledge of coding can particularly help marketing professionals excel at their jobs. In recent years, search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing have integrated greatly. Digital marketers are expected to optimise webpages in terms of editing keywords, tags, and headers. To do so, they must be able to read the page's skeleton which is written in HTML. In many cases, firms conduct A/B testing for their webpage to increase conversion and test the effectiveness of page elements. Of course, this task can be handled by web developers, but having marketers do it brings better outcomes as they have a sophisticated idea about the target demographic and why they are more likely to click certain parts of the page.
A quick LinkedIn search will show that employers are willing to recruit marketers with knowledge of some programming tools. This is because marketers are conventionally responsible for social media advertisements and a basic understanding of programming is needed to create more impactful advertisements (such as using basic JavaScript to automate AdWords). Ifran Saad Omee, a machine learning specialist at a reputed software research firm in London, says that their marketing department regularly uses algorithms and logic to make processes work for them. "Our in-house platform has code templates for marketing functionalities - the marketers determine where in the template to put codes and manipulate them if needed. Their knowledge of the logic behind algorithms is important as they have better comprehension about consumer segments, business strategy, and relevant resources as opposed to developers."
Again, all organisations have the need to calculate employees' salaries and bonuses, make investment decisions, and optimise funds available. "In our organisation, all these tasks have been automated," says Ifran Saad. "For example, we have automated the calculation of gross employee remuneration taking overtime and bonuses into account. We trace the amount of time worked by employees every month and calculate their remuneration accordingly. The required information is obtained through our in-house scraping mechanism," he says. Without automation, this calculation for thousands of employees would have been repetitive and tedious.
As the finance industry has become increasingly data-driven, employees working in portfolio and derivative management, credit risk modeling, and asset valuation/pricing use programming tools extensively. For example, if one is interested to know the number of financial securities that experienced a rise in market value after five consecutive periods of declining prices, it can be done in a matter of a few clicks. "Imagine a scenario where you have to go through 25 pages of a website and on each page, you need to copy three specific data on 10 different stocks. That is 750 (25*3*10) mouse clicks at the minimum! Such web scraping tasks can be easily automated using Python and save us time to do more meaningful work," says Ishmam Chowdhury in this regard. "Again, while Excel is a powerful tool, it comes with certain limitations. It can work with only a little over a million rows -- when one deals with hundreds of data points generated every second, it is insufficient and one has to opt for other platforms to query data. This is where SQL becomes impactful," he adds.
Similarly, fields such as supply chain and operations have countless avenues of automation (such as lead time, assembly line, and inventory management) based on which they can optimise their processes.
Starting the journey: Several online platforms can fundamentally help learners think like problem-solvers and code accordingly. Several channels on YouTube have free content dedicated to this. One can opt for platforms such as Datacamp, Codeacademy, Coursera, and FreeCodeCamp where one can code in an online environment without even installing the software. While it is true that navigating through a programming tool can be difficult at first, dedicating ample time and effort can help one acquire the know-how. It would be easier for one to start with one language, grasp syntaxes, and its corresponding logic, and gradually delve deeper. Choosing software that has simpler syntax (Python, HTML, R, etc.) would make the process beginner-friendly.
So, what extent of knowledge in this field are business majors expected to acquire? It depends on the role they work for. Of course, they are not expected to make complex algorithms such as that in artificial intelligence projects or revamp security systems single-handedly. However, they are expected to automate processes that would make their team's work efficient, make realistic demands from tech counterparts, and detect avenues of using programming tools. One can effectively do so by having a grasp on the basics and the desire to innovate solutions practically.

The writer is a fourth-year BBA student at IBA,
Dhaka University.
[email protected]

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