Breaking into business analytics

The industrial sector has developed dramatically. Technology has played a critical part in how businesses operate, with many organizations having to accept information technology to stay relevant in the current industrial climate.

Today, information technology has become an integral aspect of every business. Integrating technology into business operations has proven vital for efficiency, and innovations such as business analytics lead the charge.

Business analytics is a process by which businesses utilize statistical methods for analyzing historical data. This analysis assists businesses in solving problems, gaining new insights and making data-driven decisions. Business analytics relies on critical methodologies such as data mining and predictive and statistical analysis to transform data, identify patterns and make strategic business decisions.

At present, businesses have access to a hoard of data. Business analytics offers an effective way of understanding the context of this data and transforming it into insights that are useful for productivity.

As you would imagine, the role of a business analyst in a company is critical. Some responsibilities that come with the part include:


  • Identifying new business opportunities
  • Managing essential business processes
  • Executing technical solutions
  • Engaging in risk and reward assessments

In truth, business analytics impacts all aspects of a company. As a result, it requires some fundamental technical and soft skills.

Business analytics skills

In most professions, different skills are classed under two categories: technical and soft. Understandably, certain technical and soft skills are also relevant to carrying out business analytics processes.

Technical skills

This covers the specialized expertise required to perform specific analytical functions. Technical skills also represent how well analytics tools and programs can be utilized in real-world situations.

As an aspiring business analyst, several technical skills should be developed for accurate and impactful analysis:

  • Statistical analysis software

Statistics and probability are indispensable in business analytics. Having a good grasp of basic mathematical processes helps to understand data better, identify critical insights and make relevant predictions

Statistical analysis software such as Excel, SPSS and SAS are essential analytical tools. With these tools, analysis can be performed on historical data efficiently and accurately. There are many other statistical tools, but Excel, SPSS and SAS are some of the most prominent ones.

  • Standard query language 

The world is filled with data, and businesses have access to this data. Hence, there’s a need to quickly and accurately retrieve this data. That’s where this skill comes in. SQL is a programming language specially engineered to work with massive databases.

A business database contains a plethora of historical data. SQL helps to identify and retrieve specific data based on particular conditions from the database. Currently, there are different database management systems such as MySQL, MSSQL and Oracle. They all, however, follow an underlying syntax, making it easy to understand and practice.

  • Programming skills

Programming languages have also been a high-demand skill for business analysts. This is because businesses generate data in huge volumes. Thus, programming languages serve as efficient tools for coping with data. The most relevant languages in business analytics are R and Python.

These programming languages make it easy to transform a dataset by changing its structure, format or values. Python, for instance, offers updated libraries that help manipulate extensive, unstructured data.

  • Data visualization

A key aspect of business analytics is communicating analysis with stakeholders, most of whom are entirely new to the process. For this aspect, data visualization is a practical skill for sharing your findings with an audience unfamiliar with complex analytical techniques.

As a business analyst, you should understand when to use a graph, chart or dashboard to represent data. Power BI and Tableau are some of the most used visualization tools.

Additionally, a business analyst should also have relevant business knowledge of the organization and its operational processes.

Soft skills

In contrast, soft skills represent personal attributes. These are specific competencies that foster effective interaction with others and greatly impact how you work. For a while, there have been arguments that the term ‘soft’ naturally devalues the importance of these skills. Nevertheless, these soft skills are just as important in business analytics as technical skills.

  • Communication

We have previously touched a little on communication and the need to share analysis results seamlessly. Communication is an indispensable skill to have in the workplace. The ability to communicate effectively is also key for starting and maintaining a career in business analytics.

  • Critical thinking

Critical-thinking skills represent the ability to break down a problem into stages, study each stage and identify patterns. This is an essential aspect of business analytics and an important skill for the role.

Some other important soft skills for a business analyst include teamwork, time management and problem-solving.

How to get into business analytics

The demand for competent business analysts is on a constant rise, and for now, there are no signs to suggest that it will slow down anytime soon. Organizations are increasingly looking for ways to innovate business processes. As a result, analytical and programming skills have become notable across the business scene.

With business analytics offering so much promise, here are a few steps to becoming a competent business analyst:

  1. Obtain an undergraduate degree

A good business or computer science background is a strong starting point. A typical method to get this is obtaining an undergraduate degree in business or analytics.

While this is not precisely a determinant in breaking into the field, prospective business analysts can do with the knowledge of statistics, information technology, analytics and data science processes.

  1. Engage in online training, internships and certifications

These days, employers have generated a growing interest in certifications. Certifications serve as a recruitment strategy for hiring high-standard professionals. Most certifications for business analytics are preceded by online training. Some necessary certifications include the CBDA, PBA and business analyst master’s program.

Internships also provide work experience essential for practicing and developing relevant skills.

  1. Obtain a master’s degree

A master’s degree is also a great way to break into the business analytics field. In this regard, Aston University offers an MSc Business Analytics program for individuals looking to understand how to use data for strategic decision-making.

Aston’s distance learning MSc Business Analytics program welcomes all professionals looking to develop technical skills in business analytics.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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