3 Steps to Launch your Business Analyst Career
The growth of technological capabilities such as data storage, retrieval, manipulation and analysis has driven been ever increasing interest in the analytical field. Through analytics, businesses can improve their unique value proposition, day-to-day operations, customer acquisition processes and more. In short, there is a growing need for savvy business analysts to crunch numbers and help large and small businesses gain competitive advantages. In this post, I will share what a business analyst typically does on the job, the main rationale behind becoming a business analyst, and three steps to launch your business analyst career.
What does a Business Analyst do?
A business analyst uses analytical techniques and technologies to improve business processes. An analyst often translates business needs gathered from high level executives or research into functional technology solutions. For example, an analyst might notice a decreasing sales trend in a business segment. He/she may research the issue to find any root causes, develop predictive models to understand or drive customer behavior, or design dashboards for executives to quickly identify similar trends.
Due to the cyclical nature of business, a business analyst will create reports from key performance indicators (KPI). These reports may be monthly, quarterly, annually or ad-hoc depending on business needs. An analyst with familiarity in programming such as Visual Basics for Applications (VBA) will be capable of automating recurring reports.
Another major piece of a business analyst job is interfacing between departments. A project may require input from stakeholders across many divisions such as:
- Business Executives
- Information Technology
- Customer Service
An analyst will deliver on spoken and unspoken needs of various stakeholders, and bring others into projects as necessary.
Why become a Business Analyst?
There are several reasons one would pursue a career as a Business Analyst. To begin, a business analyst is a very technical position that requires an analytical mindset. Many professionals may be interested in switching to a more technical, data-intensive role. Next, business analysts often have high visibility to senior management. This may be appealing if an individual has ambitions to move up-the-ladder and be recognized. Thirdly, the business analyst position is a challenging, project based role. Someone who wants to break up the monotony of day-to-day operations and focus on influential and difficult projects may be drawn to become a business analyst.
How do I become a Business Analyst?
There following three steps are necessary to become a business analyst.
- Grow your technical skill set
- Develop something interesting
- Share your expertise
First and foremost, a becoming a business analyst requires a thorough understanding of mathematics, statistics and business. These skills may be developed through formal and informal methods. For instance, you may pursue undergraduate and graduate level degrees in analytical STEM disciplines, you could learn online through coursera or youtube, or you could gain experience in entry-level positions. You should be able to understand and answer questions such as “What customers were most profitable last quarter?” or “Why are we down 10 points in this category this year?” or “Can we predict which customers are most likely to leave us next month?”. Answering these questions requires pulling the necessary data, crunching the numbers, finding the root causes or building a model, and reporting your findings. Not only should you focus on academic and business knowledge, but you should also learn the various tools and resources that analysts utilize. I’ve provided an overview of many useful tools in the Analyst’s Toolbox post.
The next step to become a business analyst is to create a model, design a dashboard or perform some analysis. One easy way to do this is to analyze or optimize a hobby that you enjoy. For example, if you are an avid stock trader then you could model your favorite stocks, or if you enjoy fantasy football then you could predict player scores. Be creative and have fun with it, but keep in mind that the goal is to develop something useful and interesting that demonstrates your analytical abilities. Another route that I’ve seen many take is working on a Kaggle project. Many Kaggle competitions are open to the public and they provide the real-world data and context. If you make something amazing, you’ll even win awards.
The final step of becoming a business analyst is sharing your expertise with others. For many, this may be the hardest part, and it will require you to step outside of your comfort zone. Since step 2 provides you with a great example of your work and passion, you only need to identify people who care about it too! My suggestion is to network with business professionals on Linkedin, conferences and other gatherings. If you meet a business owner, tell them about your plans and ask if they know of anybody who might be interested. Reach out to professionals on Linkedin and ask questions or see if you can schedule a phone call to discuss analytics in their organizations. Find a platform to demonstrate your abilities, such as a website or a poster presentation at a conference. Lastly, apply for positions and share your work during interviews.
If you decide that a business analyst is the right career move for you, then you now know what steps you must take to reach it! The most important part of the process is staying focused and motivated until you become the expert that everyone wants. If you keep reading, learning, creating, and networking then the opportunities will present themselves.
If you would like further examples or guidance, feel free to leave a reply below!