Data analytics is a field that uses technology, statistical techniques and big data to identify important business questions such as patterns and correlations. The implementation of data analytics in an organization may increase efficiency in gathering information and creating an actionable strategy for existing or new opportunities.
Business analytics is focused on using the same big data tools as implemented with data analysis to determine business decisions and implement practical changes within an organization. Business analytics is implemented to identify weaknesses in existing procedures and to surface data that can be used to drive an organization forward in efficient and other measurements of growth.
It is important to understand the similarities and differences between these fields when considering starting a career in either data analytics or a career in business analytics. These fields will often share the same goal of increasing efficiency through data, but their differences are key. The skills, interests and background needed to be successful in these fields should be considered before you pursue one of these paths.
What is data analytics?
A data analyst is tasked with collecting, processing and analyzing how available data can be used to discover important insights that can help businesses improve efficiency or solve problems.
Data analysts spend their time working with data in various ways, throughout the data pipeline. The role of data analytics involves mining data, cleaning data, applying statistical techniques, designing programs and databases to manage data and fixing bugs. In the data analytics process, data analysts need to be able to work with different departments such as IT and management to determine goals and then report results in a clear and meaningful way.
To become a data analyst a strong background in math, statistics, and computer science is helpful. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field with a strong set of software skills including programming in R, Python, and/or SAS and relational database management are typically required for almost all data analyst positions. You will also be well-versed in data analysis tools that support data visualization, data collection, crawlers that extract big data, and access databases.
In order to continue to advance in this field, you will likely need a masters or doctorate in a related field. Certificate programs and data science bootcamps can also go a long way in preparing students for a career or masters program in data analytics.
What is business analytics?
A business analyst uses data to make practical, concrete decisions for a company. The evolution of business analytics is on-going but is rooted in solving problems and improving efficiency using a combination of data-driven insight, managerial strategies and clear communication. By applying the insights that can be derived from data, they work on the frontlines of the data pipeline. Business analysts should have a working knowledge of statistical tools and programming as well.
Business analysts typically come from backgrounds in management, business, IT, computer science or related fields. Business analysis combines many different topics and a diverse background is a great asset. In our interview with a business analyst for Monster, Chris Hunder said “One day you may be looking into customer data points, and another you might be focused on fresh data sets; however, solving unique problems keeps it fun.”
In business analysis, effective communication can be important. In order to make changes work, you must ensure that stakeholders understand the reasoning. In this way business analysts can act as the middle-man or translator between data analysts, executives and stakeholders.
Though some business analytics positions require only a bachelor’s degree, a masters may be necessary to get upper level positions. There are many online graduate programs in business analytics that could prepare you for these roles and maybe maximize your earning potential. Learning more about business analytics tools such as SWOT, Rational Requisite Pro from IBM, Blueprint, and Axure could be beneficial to spruce up your resume.
What is the difference between data analytics and business analytics?
Though these two fields do share a common goal, the skills needed and the strategies used are different. Data analysts and business analysts both may have career options from accounting analytics to working in public policy.
Compared to a data analyst, a business analyst works more with implementing changes and communicating results rather than processing data and drawing conclusions. A business analyst typically focuses more on the people and on the practical changes to be made. Data analysts, on the other hand, have a stronger understanding of programming, statistics and data processing in order to effectively leverage the data available. Data analysts are more likely to work independently while business analysts need to work directly with people in different departments and roles.
The end goal of data and business analysis is the same. These fields both work to improve businesses by leveraging data. They both require an understanding of statistical techniques, data management strategies and data visualization. These roles can work together to successfully discover and apply insights to businesses.
Data Analyst vs Business Analyst Jobs
For data analysts, their careers may be found in many different types of businesses including post-secondary education, software development, e-commerce, finance, government, and healthcare. Because the role of a data analyst involves skills that can be applied to many different industries, data analysts may find themselves working for a hospital, university, Fortune 500 company or a tech start-up.
Business analysts roles can be further divided into several different job titles: operations research analyst, market research analyst or financial analyst. Each of these roles focus on a primary department of a whole organization. Along the same lines as the need for data analytic skills in different industries, business analysts may find their career in many different types of companies.
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Data Analyst Skills
Data analysts hone a variety of skills, dependent on their work environment and projects. Technical and business skills are required of data analysts to succeed. Here are some to consider:
- Understanding of statistical methods
- Use of R and/or SAS languages
- Database design
- Data mining and visualization for reporting
- Machine learning techniques
- Analytic problem solving
- Creative thinking
- Knowledge of chosen industry for research on data
Business Analyst Skills
While business analysts and data analysts will often intersect, the skills for business analysis is slightly varied. Here are some technical and business skills for business analysts to consider:
- Statistical analysis software understanding
- Programming skills
- Use of survey/query software and tools
- Business intelligence and reporting
- Data mining and visualization
- Analytic problem solving
- Effective communication
- Creative thinking
Data analytics and business analytics share the goal of applying technology and data to improve efficiency and solve problems in a wide range of businesses. Data analytics focuses on using programs, data, and computational tools to explore and discover relevant insights in big data. People who love working with data and computers will excel as data analysts.
Business analytics is focused on taking insights derived from data and applying them “on the ground” by making business decisions and communicating with stakeholders. People who enjoy communicating complex topics and applying practical solutions make a great fit for business analytics.
Both of these fields play an important role in many industries today and work in tandem to maximize efficiency, reveal useful insights and help businesses succeed. A master’s in data analytics or business analytics provides wide-ranging opportunities.
Last updated: June 2020