Data Analysts aren’t a new addition to the workforce. In fact, the science of analyzing data, facts and figures has been around for a while now.  However, the terms business analyst and data analyst are often used interchangeably. In smaller organizations, these positions may be the same, and “business analyst” becomes the broad title for a job that involves data or systems analysis. In larger companies, though the roles sometimes blur in the sense that analysts in both categories work with data, but what the analysts do with that data is entirely different. Their skill-set, and sometimes, their job environment, is also different.

The advent of big data brought an impetus to data scientists all over the world. Their role in companies has emerged because of the increase in the breadth and depth of data being examined. Perhaps data analysts in some form or the other have always existed, a group of statisticians, technologists and business experts, who solved problems and provided solutions. But they were inconspicuous, obscured by the walls of a server room in an IT department. Now, data scientists are the rage in the business world, with reporting that the growth rate for this profession has reached more than 4,000 percent. The demand for these individuals, who possess a deep understanding of advanced mathematics, data engineering and domain expertise, has never been higher.

Given the status quo, it is important for us to make a distinction between the job description of a data analyst and a business analyst. Although business analysts and data scientists are both data focused roles, they differ in that a business analyst analyzes data and assesses requirements from a business perspective related to an organization’s overall system. On the other hand, a data scientist is more focused on the relationship of the data in an organization’s database. They use their skill set to compare data to competitors in the industry. They perform statistical analysis on data and provide insights based on that analysis. Both data as well as business analysts must be problem solvers. The skills of a business analyst may include expertise in the implementation of particular software such as SAP or PeopleSoft applications. Educational credentials frequently include a business degree. An MBA is not unusual. A business analyst is a crucial link between the IT staff of the company and the rest of the working community.

Whereas, the main tasks of data analysts are to collect, manipulate and analyze data. They prepare reports, which may be in the form of graphs, charts and histograms, detailing the significant results they deduce. What sets the data scientist apart is strong business acumen and the level of influence he has on the organizational structure of the company. Good data scientists will not just address business problems; they will pick the right problems whose solutions will add the most value to the growth of the company.

In many ways, data analysts are more qualified to tackle problems simply because they have the multi-disciplinary skills to step in and do things that are simply out of scope for the business analyst – they know the algorithms of the statistician and the engineering of a database engineer, and have domain/subject matter expertise.

The demand for data scientists who can process a tsunami of information is on the rise. It is the largest imbalance of supply and demand in the workforce in the recent past. What does this mean for all business analysts? It’s time to be on your toes! Data science courses are offered at multiple training academies and even universities today, to enable those interested in this new career to become equipped in the language of big data. Think relevant, think big!

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This article has been updated. To read the updated version of this content piece, click here


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