Businesses that want to be successful must have a firm grasp of how they’ve performed in the past and have a good idea of how they will perform in the future. Unfortunately, it takes a unique individual to master these skills of hindsight and foresight for the benefit of an organization. That’s why business analysts are so popular. They use data to help managers make better-informed decisions.
This article explores business analytics, including the most sought-after qualities in a business analyst, how to become a successful business analyst, the skills a top business analyst should have, and other valuable insights into the business analyst’s job. Once you’re done reading, we’ll show you how to start your own business analyst career.
So, what’s business analytics, and what does it have to do with business analysts?
What is Business Analytics?
Business analytics is a collection of technologies and disciplines that help professionals solve real-world business problems. Business analytics is typically used in association with business intelligence (BI) and big data analytics, consisting of automated data analysis practices and tools that offer clarity to business operations. In summary, business analytics use technology and data to help professionals make informed business decisions that help reduce uncertainty and potential risks.
However, some schools of thought differentiate between business analysis and business analytics, although many use the terms interchangeably. Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison that argues for a distinction between the two terms that may help you understand how to become a successful business analyst.
Focuses mainly on functions, processes, and techniques
Focuses primarily on statistical analysis and data
|Standardizes and defines business processes across the company||
Uses a dashboard to track key performance metrics using statistics to use data from past sales to predict future sales
Used to solve complex business problems and offer cost-effective, efficient solutions
|Used to predict future conditions and drive business decisions|
|Needs functional, domain, and business knowledge to analyze business requirements||
Needs mathematical, programming, and statistical expertise to perform analytics
Seeks to improve business performance by standardizing appropriate processes
Results in findings that help create future improvement opportunities
What Exactly Does a Business Analytics Professional Do?
Building off our previous definition of business analytics, a business analytics professional draws valuable, meaningful insight from data to improve organizational performance and use those insights to establish practices that will ultimately increase business value.
Let’s look at the skills needed to become a business analyst.
The Skills Required to Become a Successful Business Analyst
If you want to better understand how to be a successful business analyst, you should know the following skills, sorted into technical or hard skills and the more personal ability or soft skills. For starters, you will need to address the educational requirements. You will require a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business, or engineering. Additionally, a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) could prove helpful if you want to try higher-level positions.
Business Analyst: Hard Skills
1) Data literacy
2) Data collection
3) Data visualization
4) Databases (e.g., Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL database, Oracle DB)
5) Software testing
6) Programming languages, especially R or Python
7) Statistical analysis
8) Report creation (e.g., Tableau, QlikView, and Power BI)
9) Standard operating systems and applications (e.g., Excel, Windows, Linux, macOS)
Business Analyst: Soft Skills
1) Analytical and critical thinking
2) Public speaking
3) Decision making
4) Strategic thinking
6) Communication and interpersonal skills (particularly when dealing with stakeholders and management)
7) Managerial skills, including delegation and time management
How to Become a Business Analyst
So, you have chosen business analytics as a career, and now you want to know how to become a great business analyst. Here are the steps you must take to get your job off the ground.
1) Fulfill the educational requirements. We have already listed those. You will need a BA in the right field.
2) Acquire and nurture the required skills. This references the list of hard and soft skills. Hard skills come through education, while soft skills develop and grow through related work experience.
3) Apply for an entry-level position, or work on projects involving real data. Entry-level jobs aren’t glamorous, but they get your foot in the door and help you perfect your skills. If you’re already in a non-entry-level position, seek projects that work with real data and try to get on board.
4) Create a strong business analytics portfolio. Keep a running record of your work experience, education, experience, relevant contacts and references, and project history.
5) Network and connect with experts in the industry. Sometimes, it’s not what you know but rather who you know. So put yourself out there and make connections. Consider asking someone to mentor you.
6) Take the plunge. Once you’ve reached this point, you’re ready to fill out applications, send out resumes or CVs, and show up for interviews. Good luck!
What Are the Most Exciting Business Analytics Careers?
Business analytics opens doors, offering more career opportunities for ambitious professionals who want to branch out and take their jobs to the next level. Here is a brief sample of career opportunities available to business analysts.
1) Business Analyst Managers. Business analyst managers lead business analyst teams, overseeing budgets and project timelines.
2) Data Analysis Scientists. Data analysis scientists draw valuable insights and conclusions from available data.
3) Functional Analysts. These analyst professionals focus on the technical advancement of the company’s procedures and models.
4) Quantitative Analysts. Quantitative analysts construct and implement mathematical models that support the organization’s financial decisions.
Optional Business Analyst Tasks
If you’re a business analyst who wants to go the extra mile and take on additional duties, consider conducting a few optional analyses.
Gap analysis involves discovering possible objectives by evaluating if currently developed functionalities meet the organization’s needs. Gap analysis breaks down into four steps:
1) Create a current state analysis
2) Identify the ideal scenario
3) Discover any gaps or shortfalls and find optimal solutions
4) Create and implement a plan to resolve issues and close gaps
SWOT analysis can be used to evaluate the project or product’s current state. Analysts use SWOT to find out the actual situation as seen from an external perspective. The framework contains the following evaluation attributes:
What Makes a Good Business Analyst?
Good business analysts share a common set of characteristics. Here is how to become a successful business analyst.
1) Cover the basics. The basics are critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication. They analyze requirements, create requirements specifications and visual models, facilitate elicitation sessions, and use the necessary business analyst tools. These attributes are the fundamentals of business analysis.
2) Upskill. A good business analyst is always learning and constantly upgrading their skill set. The more skills under their belt, the more options a business analyst has for solving a problem.
3) Be resourceful. They don’t wait for answers but rather think outside the box and arrive at solutions rather than wait for others to provide the information. A good business analyst doesn’t waste time or overly rely on others.
4) Develop alignment and ownership around the solution. Business analysts, especially new ones, typically take on the responsibility of recording what the stakeholder wants. Although that’s a valuable responsibility, better business analysts go further by immersing themselves in the conflict resolution stage and ensuring when the solution will be implemented.
5) Encourage and develop clarity. A good business analyst uses analysis techniques to dig into a spec’s details and promote transparency by asking the right questions and probing into the details. Great analysts don’t just get stakeholders to sign off; they get them to buy in.
6) Don’t depend on “bribes.” Although everyone likes a perk or a pat on the head now and then, great analysts aren’t motivated by possible rewards to create and sustain a good working relationship with the stakeholders. Instead, good business analysts act professionally, listen to stakeholders, follow through on commitments, honor confidentiality agreements, and don’t gossip.
7) Realize you’re not a project manager. Good business analysts stay in their lane. They know they’re not project managers, but they know how to use those skills to manage within their sphere. For example, a good business analyst is aware of dependencies, is proactive, manages deadlines and commitments, and gets stakeholders involved appropriately.
How to Succeed as a Business Analyst
Although it’s essential to be a good business analyst, there are other guarantees of eventual success. Keep these suggestions in mind if you’re curious about how to be a successful business analyst.
1) Show the stakeholders you care. Build trust with the stakeholders by showing that you care about their issues. When you have this trust, it becomes easier to create solutions.
2) Actively listen and ask the right questions. How do you show you care? You demonstrate it by listening to the stakeholders, asking appropriate questions, and reframing and interpreting what they say. These actions create clarity, prevent misunderstandings, and show the stakeholders that you care.
3) Pick the right way to communicate. People today have many ways to communicate, such as face-to-face, by e-mail, texting, video conferencing, or phone calls. Pick the one that best suits your situation.
4) Ensure that actions will be taken. Most interactions result in a “to-do” list. A good business analyst coordinates these necessary actions and ensures they follow up on the outcomes.
5) Manage meetings. Don’t waste people’s time. Plan meetings well in advance when circumstances allow, create a detailed, organized agenda (including start and stop times), and stick to it.
6) Keep management updated. Keep management and stakeholders informed of your progress. Failure to keep stakeholders updated results in nervous people wondering what’s going on and bogging things down as they look for answers. Head off their questions and concerns by giving regular progress reports, even if they’re informal.
Do You Want to Master Business Analytics?
So there’s a lot that goes into making a great business analyst. If you’d like to learn how to become a successful business analyst, consider taking this excellent business analytics training course. In collaboration with IBM, the University of Minnesota’s Carson School of Management provides this six-month bootcamp that delivers a high-engagement learning experience coupled with real-world applications that helps you master the essential skills vital to business analytics.
You will learn valuable skills such as:
1) Business Analytics
2) Data Visualization
3) Descriptive Statistics
4) Hypothesis Testing
5) Linear Regression
6) Logistic Regression
7) Predictive Statistics
8) Prescriptive Statistics
Once you complete the course, you will earn your certificate from the Carlson School of Management and Simplilearn and become a member of the coveted UMN Alumni Association.
According to Glassdoor.com, the average annual business analyst salary in the US is $81,880, ranging from $54K to $125K. So take your career in a new and exciting direction, sign up for this essential business analyst bootcamp today, and start forging a rewarding and secure future in business analysis.