Understanding the Future of Business: What Is Business Analytics?

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Every day, companies produce massive amounts of data. This data can include the amount of customer transactions at a retail location, the number of hours worked by employees across the country, or the dollars a company spends on advertising, manufacturing, and shipping.

On its face, this data is just a collection of facts and figures. But when it’s gathered and analyzed strategically, it can reveal deep insights about how an organization does business, and these insights can be leveraged to make the right decisions about the organization’s future. Whether a company tracks customer transactions, employee hours, or dollars spent, business analytics can be used to interpret that data in ways that can benefit the organization’s bottom line.

Not surprisingly, then, the demand for trained professionals who interpret and analyze data is increasing, and so is the number of rewarding career opportunities for individuals well versed in what is called business analytics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the expected growth rate for operations research analyst jobs is 27 percent by 2026. For mathematicians and statisticians, that job growth rate is projected to be 33 percent for the same time period.

Check out the following discussion on the nature of business analytics, the skills students gain from a Master of Business Analytics program, and the job and career opportunities within this field.

What Business Analytics Is All About

For people who want to get involved in this growing field, it’s important to understand exactly what business analytics is. Simply put, business analytics is the process of using analytical tools and methodologies to evaluate an organization’s past data, performance, and history. This analysis can result in meaningful insights that can be used to influence an organization’s processes and decision making.

For example, a clothing retailer has missed its sales goal during every March for the past three years. To find out why, managers can use business analytics to interpret past data. And insights from that data may well reveal that if the company cuts back on production during February, it could save money and hit goals for March after all.

When asking yourself, What is business analytics, and is it for me? it is important to remember there are four main types of analytics: descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive. They work in conjunction with one another to provide far-ranging insights.

Organizations apply descriptive analytics to data when they want to figure out what has happened, such as when a company experiences a supply shortage or missed revenue goals. Diagnostic analytics explains why this past event happened, such as the supply shortage in question happening because the company doesn’t have up-to-date manufacturing equipment, or those missed revenue goals ending up resulting from labor shortages.

In a sense, predictive and prescriptive analytics go hand in hand. Predictive analytics uses data to help show organizations what is likely to happen in the future—for example, a company may face higher manufacturing costs in a certain month. Prescriptive analytics can then be used for recommendations on how to address those predictions—for example, the same company may decide to cut its spending to eliminate higher costs in the following month.

With all types of analytics, professionals use analytical tools to help them interpret data. These include digital programs like Microsoft Excel and Google Analytics, programming languages like Python, and complex and comprehensive analytics software like SAS and Microsoft’s BI platform. Each organization has its own needs and goals for interpreting data, so the tools or methods an analytics professional chooses to use may vary.

Skills to Attain

What are the business analytics skills that aspiring data professionals need to succeed in the field? Many of them are technical, including data visualization, statistical analysis, machine learning techniques, and data mining. Those skills and more can be gained in a Master of Business Analytics program, like the one offered by Ohio University.

Fundamentally, Master of Business Analytics programs go beyond the nuts and bolts of software programs and data organization. They encourage students to hone their problem-solving and creativity skills to help them uncover new approaches to interpreting data. The curriculum typically includes coursework in predictive and prescriptive analytics, data analysis, data management, analytical programming, applied business experience, and even a practicum where students apply their newly gained knowledge.

Students can also gain specific skills they can apply to their future careers in the data analysis arena. These skills include data visualization, or the ability to present data and insights in an appealing format so it may be better understood by partners and stakeholders, and quantitative modeling, or the process of building models using data to glean insights.

Machine learning, a process designed to automate analytics tasks using technology, is another technique students study in Master of Business Analytics programs. Effective data-mining procedures—in other words, the process of examining large sets of data for pertinent information—are also covered in these programs.

Curriculums for Master of Business Analytics programs also cover more than operational or technical abilities relating to analytics. Students in these programs obtain valuable leadership, diplomatic, and managerial skills, all crucial for current and future analysts as they rise throughout their careers. Entire classes could be devoted to these subjects, or they could be covered in several courses throughout a program’s duration.

In addition, leadership development enables younger professionals to confidently share data insights with upper management and make sound arguments about analytics processes and decisions within an organization. For more experienced employees, obtaining analytics managerial skills provides these senior officials with a firm understanding of data methodologies and practices, enabling them to effectively motivate and push analysts to success. Regardless of where an analyst may be in their career, leadership and managerial skills are necessary to ensure healthy career growth.

Opportunities

What business analytics jobs and opportunities are out there? As companies continue to produce data, the need for trained analytics professionals to interpret that data will grow. A data analytics professional can thrive in many positions, but two of the most common opportunities are data analyst and data scientist.

Data analysts organize and interpret data for a given organization, and they can work in a variety of industries, including tech, media, and government. Data scientist is often a more advanced role than data analyst, delving deeper into specific data sets. The average salary for data analysts is $59,003, according to PayScale, with those earning higher salaries often having more advanced data and analytics skills and experience. For entry-level data scientists, PayScale lists the average salary at $92,000 per year. Advanced skills can also impact salaries for this role, as well as the particular company a data scientist works for.

Beyond data analyst and data scientist, graduates can apply their skills to other related roles. These include product manager, digital marketer, insurance risk estimation analyst, and social media analyst. These roles aren’t entirely focused on data; however, they can require extensive analytics skills to help reach company goals. These positions can command high salaries as well: according to PayScale, the average salary for product managers is $82,051 per year and for digital marketing, roles is $72,000 per year. As data professionals progress throughout their career, it is common for them to command an annual salary in the six-figure range.

Because of the current and future need for data analysis, graduates of Master of Business Analytics programs are primed to qualify for competitive job opportunities that are rewarding and challenging and that command high salaries.

Making a Mark in the Promising Fields of Business Analytics and Data Science

Organizations look to data analysis to help them find better solutions when it comes to increasing profitability and reaching goals. But they often lack staff who are effectively trained in analytics, or they may need additional professionals with experience in this area.

Graduates with business analytics knowledge are in a strong position to assist these companies. Not only that, a degree in this field enables graduates to become informed and conscientious decision-makers who can develop creative strategies that solve problems, find insights that help fuel growth, and ultimately achieve a higher level of success, both for themselves and their organizations at large.

When choosing a graduate business analytics program, students often looking for a school that is reputable and that has a curriculum that works in conjunction with their existing careers and responsibilities. Ohio University’s Online Master of Business Analytics program is a convenient option for students seeking a robust education in business analytics that works with their own schedule.

 

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mathematicians and Statisticians

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Operations Research Analysts

Google Analytics

Microsoft Excel

Microsoft, Power BI

Ohio University, Online Master of Business Analytics

PayScale, Data Analyst

PayScale, Entry-Level Data Scientist

PayScale, Digital Marketing

PayScale, Product Manager

Python

SAS Platform