Different Roles in Analytics: Business Analyst


This is a part of a series of articles that will explore in-depth each of the broadly five different roles in the analytics sector. This is the first article of the series, covering the role of a Business Analyst.

In a recent article I wrote, I discussed the emergence of specialists in the analytics field. These specialists are focusing on a narrow set of skills that help them perform specific roles within the field. For too long, we have asked for too much from our data scientists. They were expected to have this unique combination of such diverse set of skills that it was hard to find anyone who met all the requirements.

Organizations have now realized that analytics involves a lot of different activities and therefore what is required is different skills for different roles.

The role of a Business Analyst has emerged from this evolution in analytics. Well, that’s not entirely true. In fact, a decade ago, most of the professionals working in analytics were called Business Analysts. Over time, anything and everything started to come under this role and that led to a lot of confusion. Fortunately, companies have realized their mistakes and we are slowly moving back to making this a specialist role.

Who is a Business Analyst?

A Business Analyst is someone who combines analytics knowledge with strong domain expertise. Business analysts are valuable to businesses because they tend to focus on the role of analytics in the context of a business problem or an opportunity. They may not have the soundest technical skills but they more than make up for it through the domain experience that they bring in. At the same time, they have enough analytics knowledge to be able to drive most kinds of analyses on their own.

Who needs Business Analysts?

In many businesses, there is a strong need for professionals who understand the business well and can do a whole bunch of quick and dirty analyses to aid day to day decision making. ‘

The biggest asset of a business analyst is the business knowledge they possess. Their understanding of the business and the problems it faces allows them to be razor focused in their analyses. This ensures that highly meaningful and actionable insights can be derived by relatively quick and easy to do analyses.

Most businesses need Business Analysts. If yours is a business that has just embraced analytics, you will find the highest value coming from deploying Business Analysts rather than Data Scientists or other specialists.

In businesses that have a well evolved analytics structure, Business Analysts often act as a bridge between the business folks and the hardcore analysts. In fact, most business managers of today are expected to have the skills to perform effective analysis to make data driven decisions.

What are the skills required to be a Business Analyst?

  • Business Analysts don’t need to be expert programmers. They don’t need to know very advanced statistical modeling. However, they need to know a little bit of everything.
  • Business analysts need to have a good understanding of the business and/or domain they are in.
  • They need to understand basic statistics and have knowledge of simple analytics techniques including basic predictive modeling.
  • They are expected to, of course, know Excel. Knowledge of more specialized analytics tools like SAS or R is an added bonus.
  • Business analysts are hired not for how well they know a tool, but rather how well they can understand a business problem or opportunity and use data to come up with a decision.

How much moolah do Business Analysts rake in?

Business analysts are highly valued for a combination of business and technical knowledge. They will typically get paid a premium over their counterparts who only have business knowledge. For example, a Financial Analyst will get paid more than a Finance professional who does not have the analytics skills.

Explore our Business Analyst – Finance specialization that will build your expertise in Financial Analytics.

Who should opt for this role?

If you have sound domain experience and want to leverage it, you would do well to pick up analytics knowledge and position yourself as a Business Analyst – someone with domain experience as well as technical expertise.

Keep watching this space for more articles on other roles in analytics.


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