How to Become a Business Analyst
Business analytics is becoming increasingly critical for strategic decision-making — for all types of organizations and industries. Here’s some key info about the field and how you can break into it.
You’ve certainly heard of business analytics and business intelligence — today more than 46% of small businesses use intelligence tools as a core element of their business strategy (Grand View Research, 2019). While they aren’t breakthrough disciplines by any means, they’re continually receiving increased attention as the critical disciplines that help organizations make better-informed and smarter decisions. Data is the most valuable resource in the world, and as we know, it powers the entire global economy, but we need the right tools and skills to interpret it. That’s where business analysis comes in.
So how do you break into this exciting field? We’ll tell you, but first, the facts . . .
What is a business analyst (BA)?
In a nutshell, business analysts review and analyze key metrics, come up with improvement plans and communicate the findings with key stakeholders across the organization. In other terms, they are specialists who help organizations make strategic business decisions faster. This is probably why they are considered by many to be the new superheroes in many organizations. Usually, they have extensive experience and knowledge about a specific function or a specific industry. They can be IT business analysts, marketing business analysts, CRM business analysts, supply and value chain business analysts, etc.
To do their job, they need a working knowledge of spreadsheets and databases as well as a relatively strong understanding of statistics and programming languages. However, depending on the organization, business analysts can be more or less technical — their main mission is to make sense out of data and to advise stakeholders what to do next.
What’s the difference from a data analyst?
Let’s get to the definitions to understand the difference between data analysts and business analysts.
According to Wikipedia, data analysis is “a process of inspecting, cleansing, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of discovering useful information, informing conclusions, and supporting decision-making” while business analysis is “a professional discipline of identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems.”
They both spend their day with data but not in the same way. While the data analyst gathers, manipulates, and transforms raw data into insights, the business analyst uses data insights to find solutions to problems. In other words, the former goes into deep technical analysis of data while the latter doesn’t.
How much does a business analyst earn?
Business analysts salaries will vary by location and employer – the salary will not be the same in North America as it is in South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, or Oceania. Salaries also vary if you work for a gigantic multinational organization or a small business.
According to Salary Expert, the average business analyst salary per year in the U.S. is approximately 96,000 dollars. A junior business analyst will earn an average salary of 67552 U.S. dollars while a senior business analyst will earn an average salary of 119,268 U.S. dollars.
You can browse their website to identify the average salary per year in your country. (These figures exclude any incentives like profit sharing, bonuses, commissions, etc.)
What does a business analyst do?
A business analyst is a professional who helps companies improve their processes in order to achieve business objectives — it gives value to insights.
Their mission is to make organizations and processes simpler and more efficient, and to help companies implement the changes necessary to remain competitive in their market. It is a key function of the company — it is the link between organizational managers and the data-driven, technical side of the business. To respond to their job’s needs, business analysts analyze situations and processes of the various functions of the organization, identify the needs through data and insights, and define solutions to meet those needs. Solutions can be diverse — an improved process, a reorganization of a function, a new business model, a new IT application, etc.
Business analysts have the following responsibilities:
- Identify business needs and objectives
- Analyze data and insights
- Define an action plan
- Identify and constantly monitor KPIs
- Analyze budget and expected results
- Create reports
- Define an improvement plan
- Support strategic business decisions
- Communicate with key stakeholders
What skills does a data analyst need?
Business analysts need a variety of different skills to keep up with an aggressive market that will reach $16 billion by 2023 (TechJury).
Employers often require the following skills from business analysts:
- Ability to gather, manipulate, and analyze data
- Identify inefficiencies and opportunities
- Analytical skills
- Building reports skills
- Communications and interpersonal skills
- Team spirit
- Project management
- Organizational and planning ability
- Active listening skills
- Knowledge of the main analysis systems (Microsoft Excel, SQL, Python, diagrams, Microsoft Power BI, Google Analytics, Azure, etc.)
- Database management
What are the career development opportunities?
The career of a business analyst generally begins with junior positions, often accessible to young graduates and young professionals who wish to work with data within a specific domain or a specific industry.
Knowing how to analyze data, support better decision-making, and manage projects to improve business performance are skills that will definitely take you to a senior business analyst role in a few years. However, they are easily transferable skills, and they can be a stepping stone to project management, data analysis, general management, strategy, operation roles.
How to start or level-up your business analysis career
If you’re already working in business analysis, and you want to level up your skill-set, you will probably need to learn a few programming languages or software that you’ll certainly meet along the way, such as Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft Azure, AWS Amazon, Excel, etc. You can pick and choose what specific skills you’re missing and focus on learning them.
For example, you might not work today with Microsoft Power BI, but since it is one of the industry leaders with over 115 million users across the globe, there is a strong chance that you’ll have to use it sooner rather than later. You might want to look at our “Business Analyst career path” that will take you from beginner to job-ready in less than a year.
If you haven’t entered the world of business analytics and wish to do so, you need a broader approach. To respond to the particular need of people that have zero knowledge and want to start or change their career to become a business analyst, we will be launching a business analyst career path that includes all you need to learn to be job-ready. We’ll take you from complete rookie to job-ready with our interactive, in-browser lessons and guided projects. Rather than simply watching videos and piecing things together, you’ll write real code and build out a portfolio that you can share with future employers. The courses are asynchronous, so you can work at your own pace whenever it’s convenient.
A career path is a commitment, but it’s a worthwhile one. We recommend that you try out a lesson or two for free before you decide to fully take the plunge.