Business Analysis: A Critical Link for Successful Analytics Initiatives
As organizations look to make better, faster, and more informed business decisions,
they are increasingly turning to business data analytics to provide them with valuable and essential insights. In helping to support better decision-making to ultimately achieve better business outcomes, business data analytics can help organizations looking to meet consumer demands, develop innovative products, create a competitive advantage, and design a clear and defined market differential.
Business data analytics is a practice where specific techniques, competencies, and procedures are applied to perform exploration, iteration, and investigation of business data, which helps an organization obtain insights that can lead to improved decision-making. Simply put, business data analytics is used to explore business problems and opportunities through scientific inquiry.
All too often, business decisions are made from gut instinct and not backed up by evidence. With the appropriate focus on and use of business data analytics, organizations can make decisions based on facts without cognitive and personal biases. Business data analytics provides critical insight and when it is used in conjunction with a foundation of business analysis, a wide range of benefits and a competitive advantage for organizations can be realized.
A growing understanding of the value of business data analytics
Using business data analytics organizations no longer need to guess at their customer needs because, through focused data analysis, sufficient context is obtained to gain consumer insights. It is those insights that are used to inform business decision-making and to identify the business and customer needs for guiding organizational change.
“The insurgence of data is an asset for organizations if decision-makers can find a way to mine through and analyze it, and be capable of truly understanding what the data is really showing,” said Laura Paton, MBA, CBAP, IIBA-AAC, Product Manager Consultant, International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®). “We don’t have to guess anymore about what our customers think about our products, or their purchasing habits, or their likes and dislikes. We have the data that gives us the answers to those questions.”
Business data analytics is a growing area. According to a recent CIO article released in March 2019, “A 2018 study by International Data Corp. (IDC) forecasts worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics will reach $260 billion in 2022…”
As Laura shared, there are two reasons for the increased attention on the role of business data analytics – the advances in technology and the new digital world.
“We have this surge in interest in business data analytics for two main reasons. There have been a lot of advances in technology from processing speeds to the tools that are available, and these advancements, including AI, are allowing organizations to process large sets of data they weren’t able to do in a time-effective way before,” explained Laura. “The second part is digital. Everybody – all organizations – have some type of web presence, they have self-service tools that they put out for customers, and organizations can analyze the data via analytics. There are a lot of systems and IT services that have been put out from a digital perspective and all of that push to the digitalization of processes is generating more data than we have ever seen before.”
Business analysis and business data analytics – A powerful and essential partnership
Although business data analytics and business analysis have been used interchangeably, there are some important distinctions between these practices. Understanding where the role of the business analysis professional commences and where the collaboration with data scientists begins is a critical element for organizations and professionals to understand.
“When we have an analytics project, the objective is to use the data to inform us of trends, patterns, and what is happening,” explains Laura. “Business analysis starts prior to doing the analytics. We [business analysis professionals] are working with our stakeholders to define what problem the business is trying to solve and working with the business to understand the context around it and the data available to help analyze the situation.”
While business analysis is the practice of enabling change by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders, business analytics is strictly focused on interpreting the large amounts of data that is available to today’s organization. Business analysis provides the business context for business data analytics.
“From a business analysis perspective, we are obtaining the pre-analytics work to set the foundation and then we are working with our team to determine the exact, best question that we can research before we start pulling data sources,” replied Laura.
As Laura further explained, the business analysis role doesn’t end as the data scientist’s work commences. “We are helping to bridge the communication between the business and our technical team. We can help support the data scientists by understanding the types of data our organization has, its meaning, and where it is residing. We can work together to put a sourcing plan together with the data scientist. We usually see the handoff between a business analyst and a data scientist when it gets into building the mathematical models.”
A business analysis professional will partner with the data scientist to mine the data, provide the necessary business context, and answer any questions the data scientist might have. “Once we feel like we have a good handle on the trends or what we are learning from the data, then the business analyst is facilitating discussions between the business and data scientists – sharing what has been learned and making the connection to the stakeholders tying in to what the business is trying to achieve,” said Laura.
Business analysis and business data analytics are a powerful partnership that when used together can help create better business outcomes and drive your organizations success.
Understanding if a career in business data analytics is right for you
With more and more organizations putting a focus on business data analytics, business analysis professionals could bridge their business skills and technical experience to support their organization in business data analytics.
Although the two disciplines are separate and unique, there are many parallels between the skills and competencies required in business analysis and those needed when performing the business data analytics activities.
“If they [a business analysis professional] have those skills that are between business and technical, it is a new career path for them,” said Laura.
IIBA has heard directly from the corporate community about the need to find business analysis professionals equipped to support business data analytics initiatives. As Laura explained, there is and will continue to be a high demand for business analysis professionals in the area of business data analytics. “Organizations have more positions than they can fill.”
If a business analysis professional has an aptitude and passion for math and science, data, running queries, and looking for patterns, business data analytics may be a great fit. While the role may not be for everyone, those professionals who possess the necessary skills, knowledge, and desire can branch out their career and capture exciting opportunities.
“A business analysis professional needs to have a strong understanding of business analysis principles and practices, and they need to marry that with strong statistical analysis and data analysis abilities,” said Laura. “They need to be strong in statistics, have a strong understanding of the business data, and be able to source and manipulate data. They need to be strong at visualization, able to see trends in numbers and then be able to pull out results, summarize findings, tell a story back to the business with data, and use the results to support business change.”
Creating a path of recognition, focus, and growth
Because of the increasing attention on business data analytics and the impact the practice can make, IIBA has been working to develop new tools and resources that will help equip business analysis professionals in further exploring and activating organization’s priorities related to business data analytics.
Certification helps business analysis professionals in expanding and enhancing their career path. In 2019, IIBA released the new Certification in Business Data Analytics (CBDA), which recognizes professionals with 2 to 3 years of experience in business data analytics. For professionals looking to gain additional recognition, experience, and career potential in the area of business data analytics, this new certification will be pivotal.
In addition to the certification, IIBA released the member-only publications – Introduction to Business Data Analytics available for the Organization’s View and A Practitioner’s View. The Introduction to Business Analytics: An Organization’s View discusses the importance of aligning business data analytics work to corporate strategy. The Introduction to Business Data Analytics: A Practitioner’s View discusses the concepts, activities, tools, techniques, and skills required to conduct business data analytic work. IIBA has also released a free paper Understanding Business Data Analytics to provide an introduction to BDA. For more information and to access the new resources from IIBA, be sure to visit: www.iiba.org/bda.
As more and more skilled professionals with knowledge and experience of business data analytics are needed, IIBA will continue to help support business analysis professionals in aligning their skill set to help them seize the increased opportunities from a widening business analysis career path. IIBA encourages experienced practitioners working in data analytics to join IIBA’s virtual Data Analytics Special Interest Group to connect and help advance the practice.