Analytics in business refers to the application of data analysis, statistical models and other quantitative methods to generate insights and solve business problems. Statistical analysis drives decision-making based on iterative, methodical analysis of an organization’s data. Business analysts are the connecting link between the data and decision-makers, and their work determines how their companies improve efficiencies, refine processes, update products and services and add value.
Advanced organizations treat their data as an asset and actively consider ways to use it to gain a competitive advantage. In order to succeed with business analytics, businesses must have quality data, a commitment to using data to gain insights and skilled analysts who understand the business and technologies. Business analysts work in every field and are in exceptionally high demand with excellent, long-term career and earnings prospects.
There are three types of analytics: 1) descriptive tracks key performance indicators or metrics, 2) predictive uses trends to predict future outcomes and 3) prescriptive formulates recommendations based on analysis of historical data and trends. Each of these requires a different but overlapping skill and aptitude set, and professionals can apply each type across business functions, from budgeting and forecasting to reporting business performance. There are also business analysts who work in managerial analysis and development of operations and processes and others who focus more on data and reporting.
The following are the necessary skills that are in high demand by leading employers for a career in business analytics:
Knowledge of Statistical Tools and Programming Languages
Popular tools in this field include data visualization software, those with unstructured text analysis and natural language processing capabilities. Open-source analytics are available for reporting and integration, as well as those with augmentation that benefits the process of data warehousing.
Data science uses programming across all job functions. These are some of the most widely used programming languages:
- Python: An open source language that groups data and functions together, often for data processing
- R: Tool for statistical analysis and intuitive visualizations, often for working with massive sets of data
- SQL: Structured query language to adjust and find what you need in massive data sets
Spreadsheets play a vital role in analytics, enabling the professional to sort, clean, structure and integrate data with other tools and sources. Business analytics professionals have advanced skills, including use functions and quick analysis features. They can interpret results from spreadsheets using a variety of analytical methods. Segmentation of spreadsheets allows analysts to focus on particular groups and is used often in marketing.
Data analysts can gain many findings and insights from projects, but just as important is the ability to translate these findings for the benefit of company decision-makers. Data visualization tools, including dashboards with charts and graphs, help to succinctly relate key insights in a way that resonates with an audience and reduces confusion. Working with executives involves choosing the data visualizations that best represent findings and make decision-makers receptive to recommendations.
For business analysts working on their organizations’ websites, proficiency in web analytics tools — such as Google Analytics, Matomo and Adobe Analytics — is essential. These tools track key performance indicators and metrics, including keywords used to find a website, number of visitors, popular pages and conversion rates.
Soft skills, or collaboration and communication abilities, enable professionals to work in unison with one another. The abilities to think critically, structure thinking to foster team collaboration, solve problems using proven methodologies and communicate effectively through a variety of channels qualify the business analyst to lead teams of personnel than technical skills alone. Developing soft skills is a lifetime pursuit; as they continue to be in increasing demand, leaders must commit to continual improvement in this area.
Interested in Developing a Full Suite of Business Analytics Skills?
The William Paterson University (WP) Master of Science in Applied Business Analytics online program trains professionals in next-generation quantitative skills and strategies, including those covered in this article. The program aims to prepare professionals to manage big data to identify insights, drive solutions and communicate findings to diverse audiences. Students can complete WP’s accelerated program in as few as 12 months, and the program is ideal for working professionals who aim to advance into rewarding specialist, management and executive roles.