How Big Data Is Changing the Business Analyst Job Description

By Robert Half on April 2, 2014 at 7:00am

Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data, a current business title, seems to sum up the current thinking: Big data will change everything about the way business is done. The advent of big data promises to breathe new life into the business analyst job description, opening new avenues of responsibilities and corresponding increases in salaries.

To become a senior business analyst, you need three to five years of experience in the role, along with strong technology and analytical and skills.

A senior business analyst is expected to perform tasks such as assisting with the implementation and support of business information systems across multiple departments. In addition, a senior business analyst is often required to conduct market analysis, and to analyze both product lines and the overall profitability of the business.

Other responsibilities of a senior business analyst may include:

  • Developing and sharing reports that enable advertising, customer service, finance, sales and marketing managers to make better business decisions by understanding geography, supply chain and price.
  • Ensuring that business data and reporting needs are met.
  • Developing and monitoring data quality metrics.

Clearly, these responsibilities mesh well with a big data future. TechRepublic’s Mary Schacklett would agree: “A big data team in most cases minimally requires an astute business analyst who can work with the end business so the right analytics queries are formed.”  

Kupe Kupersmith heralds the major transformation that big data will bring to the business analyst job description. He writes that the business analyst job of the future will see the business analyst working less in project teams and more in “strategy roles like enterprise or strategic BAs, business architecture, management consulting, and managing lines of business.”

Encouraging numbers

Consider this encouraging metric for the business analyst role: According to the 2014 Salary Guide from Robert Half, salaries for business analyst managers in finance and accounting at large companies are expected to range from $83,500 to $119,000, an increase of 4.3 percent over 2013. A recent article from Robert Half Technology notes that business intelligence analysts are seeing a average starting salary increase of 7.4 percent.

One of the most exciting aspects of big data’s impact on the business analyst job description is that these professionals now inform key decisions and serve as business partners across multiple departments to provide the story behind the numbers.

High-paying big data jobs await analysts with the right blend of knowledge and skills.

Asking the right questions

New York Times reporter Steve Lohr, based on research from Tom Davenport, sums up the value the business analyst will play in big data’s future. Taking advantage of big data will include the ability to ask the right questions, such as:

  • How do you define the problem?
  • What data do you need?
  • Where does it come from?
  • What are the assumptions behind the model that the data is fed into?
  • How is the model different from reality?

These skills have always been part of the business analyst’s toolbox, but the vastness of big data requires an exponential increase in the business analyst’s ability to tell a compelling story based on the right data.The business analyst of the future will use the analytical skills of today to skillfully — and lucratively — navigate the intricacies of a big data world. The knowledge they bring will, in fact, help narrow the margin of error for businesses by capturing key analytics and enabling sound business decisions.

More resources

If you’re a business analyst who is interested in finding new project and interim work opportunities, Robert Half Management Resources can be a valuable resource in your search. Explore our site to find assignments in your local area.

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8 Common Business Analyst Interview Questions: Whether you’re just embarking on the business analyst career path or you’re a longtime professional in the field, preparing to address common types of business analyst interview questions can help ensure you’re ready to impress a potential employer when you’re looking for projects. See this post for tips.


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