A business analyst is a skilled role that requires the analyst to have a thorough knowledge of both business function and IT. By evaluating data from both past and present business activity, they aim to improve the decision-making processes in the business, helping them become more efficient and effective. Playing a key part in how a business develops, it is not surprising that businesses are keen to hire the most skilled recruits, offering generous salaries and providing good long-term job prospects. When selecting a business analyst for their company, there are certain key skills that employers look for that are worth developing if this is a career path that interests you.
One of the key skills for business analytics is problem-solving, with the ability to think outside the box. As well as identifying problems, candidates will need to analyze them and consider the available solutions, often in highly complex situations. While some problems will require methodical thinking, with the analysis of data and a good knowledge of statistics to uncover trends, patterns, and regularities, others will require more creativity, with the ability to develop innovative solutions and consider new ways of working.
Good communication skills are essential for a business analyst. These skills will be called upon when gathering the data and will require knowing which questions to ask to get the most useful data and good active listening skills to be certain you have been fully understood. If you are working as part of a team, when brainstorming ideas and solutions, you will need to be able to communicate your thoughts effectively. Occasionally, there may be a need for tact and diplomacy during this process to keep morale high and to maintain effective collaboration with your colleagues.
Good communication is also essential when the time has come to put solutions into practice. Once the analysis is complete and you have identified a new direction for the company or have worked out how to solve a particular problem, you will need to be able to communicate it effectively both in spoken and written language to make sure others in the company fully understand how to implement the ideas and to answer any questions your colleagues may have. Again, diplomacy and strong persuasive skills can be needed to convince those resistant to change.
Managerial and leadership skills
Increasingly, business analysts are taking on more organizational roles, requiring them to have good leadership and management skills. As a business analyst, you will need to convince people of your solutions and innovations, in addition to being able to organize a team to work to maximum effectiveness. From project management to time management, these skills are key to reaching the most effective solutions.
As well as managing others, good data analysts are also effective at self-management. New developments require a continual ability to learn new skills and technologies. When starting a career in data analysis, you may be making a commitment to life-long learning and will need discipline to ensure your skills are always up to date. The job can also be stressful when the pressure is on to solve a particular problem or find a new solution. Good business analysts will need to function well under this pressure and to make sure they are not too rigid in their thinking.
IT and technology
As with all other areas of business, technology is playing an ever-increasing role in business analytics and business analysts will need to be competent in new systems. Developing proficiency in languages such as Python, R and SQL will help business analysts develop software solutions and engage in data visualization.
As new technologies are developed all the time, acquiring skills in the latest developments will help a job applicant for a data analyst position stand out from the crowd. Skills you should consider developing include artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT). Being able to use technology to monitor, organize and analyze business data will make you highly valuable to any employer.
Financial skills and business acumen
Business analysts must work astride the gap between technology and business function, needing skills in both. When analyzing the business data, the analyst will need to consider the financial repercussions of any decisions, including the costs involved as well as realistic estimates of both financial risks and potential profits. These will need to be factored into any decisions that arise as a result of your analysis, so a good knowledge of finances and how businesses work is essential to success.
Gaining the skills
If you already have some background in business analysis, you may find you just need a course to brush up on a few areas. However, for those new to business analytics, a first step on the career path will be to gain the required skills and qualifications. Many universities offer courses in business analytics, and it is worth enrolling in one. If attending a university full-time is not possible for you due to geographical constraints or work and family commitments, an online degree is an alternative option. Online study provides the same rigorous curriculum, but typically with more flexibility, allowing you to study at a time convenient to you in the comfort of home.
A good example of a course from an academic institution of a high standard is the online business analytics degree at Aston University in the UK. Welcoming students from around the world, it helps students develop and refine key skills such as strategic decision making and analytical experience through 100% online study, with their graduates gaining positions in top companies worldwide.
With good business analysts high in demand, this is an exciting time to embark on this career. If you already have the skills and qualifications, you will be likely to find many employment opportunities. However, for those just starting out, the wide availability of courses, including convenient online courses, makes this the ideal time to start training for this challenging and fulfilling career.