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What Does A Business Analyst Do?

By Ashley DiFranza | February 8, 2021

In recent years, the amount of data generated by the global population has reached an all-time high. Humans now produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day through the use of smartphones, social media, and websites like Google, and 90 percent of that total data worldwide has been created within the last two years alone.

With these increasing numbers has also come an expanding reliance on the use of such quantifiable information in business. Enterprises across a variety of industries are using consumer preferences, habits, and other data insights to help make decisions. In business, 81 percent of organizations have come to rely on the population’s data when trying to “gain greater customer insights” and identify trends.

The Need for Data Professionals

A lot has to happen to those 2.5 quintillion bytes of data before it can be useful to organizations, however. Individuals who work in analytics are responsible for taking the unstructured captured information we generate online and translating it into a format that the human brain can understand.

This process of generating, analyzing, and communicating data is carried out by various individuals in the field, each of whom takes ownership of a particular component of the work.

  • Data analysts do more technical work, including sifting through data, drawing conclusions, and effectively communicating that data through practices like data visualization and verbal storytelling with data.

  • Business analysts evaluate past and current business data with the primary goal of improving decision-making processes within organizations. They work closely with stakeholders to identify goals, best practices, and other active methods for gathering and analyzing data as it relates to the needs of the specific organization.

  • Data scientists are similar to business analysts in that their primary focus is on the processes through which data is gathered for business use. However, unlike business analysts, data scientists focus on the technical aspect of these processes. They evaluate the acquisition, storage, and initial analysis of data, then apply data science methods to measure effectiveness.

While each of these roles plays a significant part in the overall use of data analytics in business, it is the work of a business analyst that makes the most direct impact on an organization. Read on to learn more about the responsibilities, necessary skills, and career outlook for the business analyst field.

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Business Analyst Job Description

Many compare the role of a business analyst to that of a liaison between advanced technology and the goals of stakeholders within an organization. Individuals in this role are responsible for improving the efficiency and impact of certain business operations, including the review of programs or technical processes.

Business analysts may also be in charge of analyzing and communicating data as it relates to business-relevant trends and solutions to a management team. Organizations heavily rely on business analysts’ constant evaluations and recommendations, as the information provided is often used to improve decision-making processes and reconfigure business goals both internally and at a customer-level.

Although specific role requirements may vary depending on the needs of the organization, there are a few key responsibilities that span most business analyst work.

Key Responsibilities of Business Analysts

  • Understanding what a business does, including most significantly, the processes through which they accomplish their work.

  • Evaluating those processes for efficiency, cost, and results.

  • Compiling recommendations for the company on process adjustments, new potentially impactful technologies, or other areas for improvement.

  • Leading the research, design, and implementation of any technology or processes that require a more substantial technical understanding within the group, including the development of functional specifications.

  • Managing projects, developing project plans, monitoring performance, and ensuring timely turnover of deliverables.

  • Communicate changes, recommendations, and procedures to business teams.

  • Remain engaged with business leaders to help them understand how changes impact the goals of the organization.

Overall, business analysts bridge the gap in understanding between the management of an organization, and the complex data and technical systems businesses use in hopes of improving processes and helping impact decision-making. Businesses place substantial value in analysts who can successfully provide this support, especially in today’s increasingly data and technology-reliant world.

Business Analysis vs. Business Analytics

The terms “business analysis” and “business analytics” are often used interchangeably, and while both do involve the review of data-based information to benefit a corporation, there are a few unique qualities that help define each practice. Where business analysis focuses on process improvement and solution implementation, business analytics is based on data and involves using that data to formulate conclusions on business performance. The lines between these disciplines only continue to be blurred, however, as industries become reliant on data for all kinds of high-level decision-making.

Business Analyst Salary & Career Outlook

The data industry, in general, is experiencing a very positive career outlook; IBM predicted that by 2020, there would be 2,720,000 jobs in America for data professionals, and the overall demand for these roles is higher than ever.

Business analysts, sometimes referred to as management analysts, are falling right in line with this trend. The average salary for individuals in these roles is $85,260 annually, and those numbers can increase depending on a declared specialty—such as IT or system operations—within the general business analyst field.

Salaries for business analysts may also vary depending on where the individual is located. For example, PayScale reports that compensation for business analysts in San Francisco exceeds the national average by 27 percent, followed by Seattle at 12 percent, and Boston at seven percent, among others.

Did You Know: Northeastern University offers a Master of Professional Studies in Analytics program on-ground in Boston, Charlotte, Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area? Learn how you can take advantage of experiential learning opportunities in the business analyst field within each of these cities on our programs page.

The general job outlook for business analysts is increasing at a faster-than-average rate of 11 percent, and the popularity of many other big data careers is on the rise, as well. These factors together have led to an increased interest in data careers across a variety of industries.

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