MSBA Applied Project

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4th ANNUAL CALL FOR PROPOSALS!

PRO BONO & FAIRPAY CONSULTING BY MASTER OF SCIENCE BUSINESS ANALYTICS STUDENTS

If your organization has a challenging problem to solve, or is seeking data-driven insights about your business or organization, the Center for Business Analytics at the Milgard School of Business wants to partner with you. You are invited to benefit from a team of advanced Master of Science in Business Analytics students (MSBAs) working on an important actionable project for your organization.

We will need to have a brief proposal from you by June 15, 2020 for MSBA cohort that starts on June 20, 2020 if you would like to be considered. Provide us a problem to solve or an opportunity to explore, and a fair compensation that you will be willing to pay at the successful completion of this projectWe will continue to provide pro bono applied projects this year for those organizations unable to make a financial contribution given the current economic environment. In the paragraphs that follow, we tell you more about this opportunity. Please e-mail any questions to Professor Demirkan (haluk@uw.edu) or Michael Helser, Ph.D (helsem@uw.edu), Manager of Operations and Programs - Milgard Center for Business Analytics . You can submit this 2 pager PROPOSAL (sample proposal is available in here) to this webpage.

How does it work?

Your organization provides a Project Proposal for a team of 3-6 students in the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program to solve over the course of 12 months under the direction of UW Tacoma Milgard Faculty Advisors.  

Beginning June 2020 concluding in late-May 2021, the MSBA student teams will work on a comprehensive business analytics and digital transformation assignment or project (in 4-phase) by dedicating approximately five-six hours per week (per consultant) for you using the skills developed in their specialized course work that is part of a course called “Applied Project: Analytics & Digital Transformation Lab.” The main objective of the Applied Project is to create a setting in which students can apply the advanced concepts, theories and frameworks encountered in the MSBA program in an integrative fashion, and they can demonstrate their distinctive knowledge and skills to solve existing business problems or cultivate new opportunities, and improve the performance of organizations through live consultative projects that typically include data collection, analysis, demo, digital transformation plan and recommendations.

The Center for Business Analytics and the MSBA program is led by Professor Haluk Demirkan, Ph.D.  With his nearly 20 years of professional consulting experience, as well as his extensive background in analytics, service innovation and digital transformation, you can be assured that your student consultant team will be guided by a highly experienced mentor. 

Why partner with us? Admission into the MSBA program is highly competitive.  Our MSBA students are uniquely qualified to bring creativity, data-driven insights and applied innovative approaches to deliver tangible business outcomes for your organization.  As they gain deep technical expertise in the use of analytics, big data and smart machines over the course of the program, they will apply their learning towards solving your problem or opportunity. 

Who have we worked with in past projects? Our MSBA students have applied their skillsets in data analysis, strategic thinking and project management for the following organizations...

  • During AY 20-21, two cohorts of 73 MSBA student consultants are working on 14 projects with 14 different companies including CHI Franciscan, Greentrike, City of Lynnwood, City of Tacoma, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Sound Credit Union, Metropolitan Appliance, City of Tacoma Fire Department, Schnitzer, South Tacoma Auto, University of Washington Tacoma, Communities in Schools of Tacoma, City of Puyallup, Korean Woman Association

Learn more about the City of Puyallup project highlighted in the Sept/Oct issue of Cityvision – The Association of Washington Cities Magazine

  • During AY 19-20, two cohorts of 76 MSBA student consultants worked on 19 projects with 19 different companies including CHI Franciscan, Communities in Schools of Tacoma, Costco Whole Sale, Delta Air Lines INC., Harbor Wholesale Foods, Inc., IBM, Metropolitan Appliance, MultiCare Health System, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division, Keyport, Point Defiance Zoo, Providence St Joseph Health, Sound Credit Union, South Sound Military & Communities Partnership, Stellar Industrial Supply, Tacoma Power, Tacoma Public Schools, TCS World Travel, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Hyundai Capital of America
  • During AY 18-19, one cohort of 33 MSBA student consultants worked on 8 projects with 6 companies including CHI Franciscan, City of Tacoma, Columbia Bank, Harbor Wholesale Foods, Inc., Metro Parks Tacoma, Microsoft
  • During AY 17-18, one cohort of 32 MSBA student consultants worked on 9 projects with 8 companies including Metro Parks, Data Central, Delta Analytics, CHI Franciscan Health, Stellar Industrial, SSMCP, Turnover Intelligence, Boeing

What are some examples of problems or opportunities that our student teams can work on for you? This research orientation is intended to push the envelope of the student’s skills to under-explored applied domains (e.g. marketing, social media, HR, customer, sales, ERP/supply chain, logistics, operations, manufacturing, advertising, finance, retail, education, healthcare, sports, e-commerce, IT, telecommunications, hospitality/tourism, public services, utility).

  • Marketing / Sales
    • What do consumers want to buy and how much are they willing to pay?
    • Where and when do consumers want to make a purchase?
    • How to keep consumers loyal?
    • How to create a virtual marketplace?
    • How to recover and sustain market growth?
  • Supply Chain & Logistics
    • How to anticipate and prevent future inventory problems?
    • How to design more responsive supply chain networks?
  • Healthcare
    • How to optimize utilization of surgical operation resources?
    • How to manage estimated revenue and risk resulting from the Hospital Value Based Purchasing?
    • How to analyze opportunities for consolidating surgical specialties to specific locations?
    • How to strategize growth and investment for the Robotics Program in healthcare?
    • How to forecast surgery volume for seasons?
  • Finance
    • How to measure financial performance and assess the value of intangible capabilities?
    • How to create a balanced portfolio of metrics as a strategic management system?
  • Human Resources
    • How to retain top talent in an organization?
    • How to determine the bottom line impact of staffing decisions?
    • How does salary relate to personnel performance?
    • How to determine the economic impact of a region-specific workforce?
  • Engineering / Operations
    • How to maximize yields?
    • How to predict equipment malfunctions before they occur?
    • How to optimize and grow a robotics capability?
  • Utility Services & Public Services
    • How to predict when and how customers will use the service?
    • How to encourage small businesses to establish themselves in a city?
  • Insurance
    • How to profitably insure customers in high-risk categories?
    • How to detect fraudulent behavior?
    • How to optimize rate structures?

What do we need from our partners? Your organization needs to provide an Executive Sponsor for your project as well as an individual who is readily accessible to our students to ensure access to the people and internal information necessary to complete your project.  Interactions with our students generally occur on a weekly basis over the duration of the project.

What do you receive in return? At the end of the project in early June 2021, your student consulting team will deliver a final presentation to senior management in your organization with results and strategic recommendations. Our MSBA student consultants will be dedicating approximately 5-6 hours per week (per student) on your problem.  Projects typically include data collection, analysis, prototype demonstrations, digital transformation plans and strategic recommendations.

What about confidentiality? You can be assured that your company-specific data, insights and recommendations will remain confidential.  We will sign an NDA with your organization to protect your confidential information. After receiving your pre-approval, students will share your project at an Applied Project Showcase at the end of the project. The Showcase will only highlight the methodologies, tools and techniques used during your project (no company confidential information will be presented publicly).  Here's a link to see the presentations shared at our Showcase last year.

Who can I speak with to learn more before I submit a proposal? Please contact Michael Helser, Ph.D. - Manager of Operations and Programs - Milgard Center for Business Analytics to learn more.  He can be reached at:


The broad theme of the project will be to address a problem domain in an area where analytic and digital solutions have not yet advanced to a point of wide-scale adoption.

The idea is to align projects with organizations willing to share a problem (or opportunity) and data that addresses an important new frontier of analytics deployment for their organization.

The challenge will be for students to identify from the training they have received the relevant tool suites, analytics frameworks and emerging digital solutions (e.g. big data, mobile/cloud/fog/cognitive computing, internet-of-things, social media, mobile, smart services) they deem might apply – and to get ‘as far as they can’ in discovering insights from the data.

In addition, students will work on an end-to-end project whereby data sources are messy, business value needs to be defined and discovered, and their teaming and communication skills can be challenged and advanced.


As part of this project, students will complete the following 4 phases:

  • Phase 1: Discover concentrates on industry, market and organization analysis to discover opportunities for data and analytics enabled digital transformations (e.g. Business Intelligence & Analytics Strategy, Goals & Objectives, Business Process Analysis, Scope Definition)
  • Phase 2: Plan concentrates on processes performed to analyze, scope and plan the problem (e.g. Descriptive & Diagnostic Analytics)
  • Phase 3: Develop concentrates on the analytics-enabled transformation with collection, storage, analysis of data and development of digital solutions (e.g. Predictive & Prescriptive Analytics/Machine Learning)
  • Phase 4: Deploy concentrates on processes performed to prototype and lessons learned, analyze findings, recognize ethical dilemmas and social responsibilities (e.g. Cognitive Analytics & Smart Apps)

We sincerely hope you will take advantage of this opportunity and benefit from our MSBA Program.

Step 1: Submit a proposal

When you are defining the proposal, please note that the projects need to result with applied recommendations and implementation plans with some amount of measurable benefit and cost analysis. Applied Project Proposals need to be submitted online here. 

Your project proposal will include the following:

  • Company/Organization name
  • Who will be the day-to-day contact from your firm (name, position, phone and e-mail)?
  • Who will be the project’s executive sponsor (name, position, phone and e-mail)?
  • Brief background information about your organization
  • Statement of purpose and scope (problem, challenge, or opportunity to be addressed by the project)
  • What you hope to gain from an MSBA team? (What would you like to find out or have accomplished; what is the desired deliverable?)
  • What are some key tasks the students will perform to complete the project?
  • What resources are available to complete the project (access to data, software, hardware, and support from staff, etc.)?
  • Any risks or assumptions that may be relevant to the project
  • A sample proposal to guide you 

Step 2: Proposal Review & Matching Process (late June/early July)

Once your proposal is reviewed and accepted by the Center for Business Analytics at Milgard School of Business, it will be shared with the MSBA teams. You will hear back from Professor Demirkan by late June - early July on whether your project has been selected. We expect to have more project possibilities than we will be able to work on so the selection process will be competitive. If your proposal is not being selected for this cohort, we will work closely with you to revise your proposal and make it ready for our next cohort or for other project courses.

Step 3: Two-Way Meeting (June & July)

You will meet with the consultants to develop a Statement of Work/Project Charter. Student teams will develop a project plan.

Step 4: Project Work (July through May)

Student teams receive faculty guidance and consult with your organization while conducting research and developing deliverables. Project work will also include continuous project reviews and status updates, as well as, delivery of final written report and oral presentations to clients.

Fair Pay Compensation Model:

While we expect that our partner organizations will provide reimbursement for nominal out-of-pocket student expenses (e.g., mileage, tolls etc. for project-related travel) we do not charge an up-front project fee to our partners for our students to work on these projects.  Rather, we believe in a Fair Pay Compensation model whereby our partner organizations define what they would be willing and able to contribute to the Milgard Center for Business Analytics for a successful project outcome at the end of the project. We will continue to provide pro bono applied projects this year for those organizations unable to make a financial contribution given the current economic environment.

In your proposal, please consider what amount your organization is willing to contribute to the University of Washington Tacoma Milgard Center for Business Analytics if the project deliverable and experience meet your expectations at the end of the project in May 2021. These funds are used to support future analytics projects, research & education in our community, and students' academic & professional development.  

Please note that contributions at the $15,000 level and above will be recognized with access to our graduating MSBA students and alumni that are seeking internships and full-time employment in the region. With permissions of students, we will be able to provide to the organization a resume packet and an invitation to meet our MSBA graduates and alumni in June 2021 during an in-person networking event at UW Tacoma.

Note: UW Tacoma assesses an additional 5-10% transaction and overhead fee depending on the type of funding model used to support the Milgard Center for Business Analytics (Gift = 5% OR Academic Educational Support = 10%). Please contact Michael Helser at helsem@uw.edu if you have questions about overhead fees and what funding model works best for your organization.


For more information, please contact Michael Helser, Program Manager from Center for Business Analytics to express your preliminary interest regarding this opportunity helsem@uw.edu