The business analyst within the company is constantly looking for opportunities, waste, and inefficiency in production and processes. They might work in a separate department, or work within other departments like marketing or finance to specialize in a particular performance need. They often have access to a tremendous amount of data and need to analyze it into digestible charts that can be presented to management. Often, this data comes with proposed suggestions on how to act on trends that the business analyst has discovered. This means the business analyst needs to have a strategic mindset along with a logical one.
What Can You Expect From a Business Analyst Job?
When asked, "what is a business analyst," the answer tends to vary by company and department. Business analysts need to identify trends and discover why certain patterns occur. Below are some of the responsibilities included in the daily role of a business analyst.
- Creating and updating regular performance reports
- Presenting their reports and findings to management
- Studying industry-wide business trends
- Analyzing data and manipulating it to find patterns
- Identifying irregularities in performance and researching why
- Discovering waste in production and spending
- Discovering inefficiency in performance and providing suggestions for improvement
- Assisting departments when they have problems or need reporting
- Training co-workers on reporting tools and creating report templates for them
- Answering questions about performance and explaining reporting to management
- Creating predictions and forecasts for long-term performance
- Building contingency plans and estimating the cost to the company in a crisis
- Estimating the impact new vendors and changes have on the business
- Drafting weekly, monthly, and quarterly performance plans
Most business analysts work in an office setting and have their own desks or cubicles, though they may need to meet with other people at their desks for training sessions. Depending on the company, the business analyst might work in an open-office environment, or he might have a traditional office space with a door. While most of the day will be spent sitting, there are opportunities to move around to meet with people, and a business analyst can spend large parts of her day in meetings and making presentations. These office environments tend to be quiet, but there can be disruptions throughout the day if meetings are held nearby or there are loud co-workers talking nearby.
Most business analysts will have a computer with multiple monitors and a phone. Some companies might provide a tablet or laptop when they need to leave their desks for meetings. Additionally, analysts who travel might receive a work phone and a company credit card if they're visiting different states and different countries for work. As more companies offer work from home options, hardware that is easy to take home is becoming increasingly popular for companies to give to their employees.
Most business analysts work traditional business hours, arriving around eight in the morning and leaving between five and six. Most analysts will work Monday through Friday, but may be required to come into the office on weekends if there is a crisis or if they're operating on deadline. They may also work late to complete reports or finish a presentation on time. Most business analysts work full-time, though some might start out as part-time employees before they're promoted.
While some business analysts might have the same amount of work year-round, others might have more work based around the company's schedule. For example, a business analyst for a major league baseball team will have more work leading up to the season and throughout the playoffs than in the fall when the season ends. When interviewing, ask what does a business analyst do during peak seasons that is different from the rest of the year.
Most business analyst job descriptions tend to require a bachelor's degree, though a master's degree is often preferred. In some cases, a company will overlook a lack of a bachelor's degree if the candidate has significant experience to make up for it. Below are a few majors that employers will look for when filling a business analyst position.
- Business Administration
- Business Management
Most business analysts use specific tools that are unique to the company and aren't taught in school. Candidates can expect an employee training period, and even a probationary period of three to six months, before being considered a full-time employee.
While many companies look for formal education when hiring a business analyst, experience in the field and with data can trump a higher degree. However, many business analysts only need a few years in the field before they're promoted. In fact, 49 percent of business analysts have fewer than 10 years in the field, while only 18 percent have 21 years. The average career experience for a business analyst is six to 10 years, which makes up 29 percent of the demographic.
This data proves that many young people start as business analysts or business assistants, and then work their way up through management. Many companies prefer their employees to have a strong understanding of data and the business before moving them into higher-responsibility positions.
Employers look for a specific skill set when they hire business analysts because it's easier to train employees on new software and tools than it is to teach logical thinking and strategic planning. Here are a few soft and hard skills business analysts need when applying for jobs.
- Google Analytics, Coremetrics, or Omniture - These analytics tools are used by most businesses to analyze site performance.
- SQL and Microsoft Access - Analysts work with extensive databases and need to manipulate large sums of data.
- Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word - Data manipulation often continues with Excel, and then is presented to management in PowerPoint and Word format.
- Quickbooks and financial reporting systems - These tools are specific to analysts that work with the accounting department to improve cashflow.
- Web browsers and research tools - analysts need to feel comfortable researching industry trends and their competitor's performance.
- Conference call services with screen share capabilities - If analyst is presenting to multiple departments in other locations, he will need to share his information via screen share.
- Internal systems - many companies build their own reporting systems that analysts will need to learn after they're hired.
- Critical thinking - Identifying patterns and irregularities is an important part of an analyst's job.
- Strategic Planning - Most businesses expect the analyst to plan the year based on strategic thinking and an understanding of the business.
- Adaptability - the analyst needs to respond to change requests in reports and forecasts, as well as changes in deadlines to produce the data faster.
- Ability to work under pressure - When the business needs answers, the analyst needs to work quickly to identify problems.
- Fast learning and training - Analysts need to quickly learn how different reporting interfaces work and how they can use them.
- Attention to detail - Errors made by the analyst can produce false results, which discredits their work and leaves the business worse off.
- Presentation and public speaking - the analyst needs to clearly and calmly explain their findings and what they mean for the company as a whole.
When asked "how much do business analysts make," the answer depends on experience and location. The national median salary for business analysts is around $87,500 annually. Entry-level business analysts earn about $47k for the first few years in the field. Once they have experience, they can earn an average of $87k per year. Nationally, a business analyst can earn about $112k in metro areas. Some of the best cities for business analysts are San Francisco and New York. The salary tends to depend on cost of living, as those two cities are a few of the most expensive in the nation. The actual average salary will depend on where you live and the competitiveness of the market.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of 18 percent for business analysts between 2019 and 2029. This should lead to a predicted 495,500 jobs, which is significantly faster growth than most positions and industries are seeing in the United States. This data suggests there is a strong need and there are opportunities for business analysts looking to advance their careers.
Business analysts that work hard and show dedication to helping the business and improving its processes can be promoted to analytics manager or senior analyst. These team members often manage business analysts and decide what projects they're going to focus on and when.
Business development might eventually leave the analysis part of the company and become managers of other departments. Their intricate knowledge of how the company works makes them uniquely qualified to lead the business and make decisions on their own.
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