A reader asks:
Is it possible for a BA to concentrate on both Business Analysis and Business Analytics side by side?
In order to have a productive conversation about a topic without getting derailed by misconceptions, first we need to eliminate any confusion about how the terms are being used. So here’s how I’m using the following terms throughout this article:
Analytics: The science of applying a structured method to solve a business problem using data and analysis to drive impact. 
Business analytics: The use of simpler analytics methodologies on past data. 
Advanced analytics: Everything else, including predictive analytics. 
Business analysis: The activities associated with defining and understanding business problems and determining the right solution. Such activities include problem identification, requirements discovery, analysis, specification, validation, approval, as well as knowledge transfer about desired outcomes, requirements, assumptions, and risks to the delivery team.
Just based on these definitions, it’s pretty clear that business analytics (as well as advanced analytics) can have a huge impact in the quality of business analysis. Analytics can help you understand the specifics of the problem you’re trying to solve, and add precision to decisions about priorities, requirements and design.
Here are some examples of how business analysts can use analytics to improve the quality of their solutions:
- A BA working on the prioritization of change requests submitted by users of an internal application can use analytics to determine how many people would benefit from each of the proposed improvements and make prioritizing recommendations accordingly. (E.g., “500 users need to reply to a message in our platform each month, and in average each of these users replies to 10 messages a month. 30% of the time users have to change the “From:” field before replying so the message is sent from a shared account. The “reply-from” enhancement meant to facilitate changing the “From:” field will affect 500 x 30% = 150 users and 500 x 30% x 10 = 1,500 replies per month. We recommend bumping this improvement to the top so it’s implemented before this other planned enhancement that will only affect 12 users performing an average of 3 actions per month.”).
- A BA working for a credit card issuer and responsible for a system that manages the credit card approval process examines historical data and notices that the company is showing signs of increased losses and incorrect actions for customers. She uses descriptive analytics to divide customers into multiple segments and recommends the company moves from the existing single model for predicting risk for all customers to distinct risk models that handle only a subset of all customers. The change improves the accuracy in risk modeling and creates millions in loss savings.
- A BA working for a retail business and responsible for specifying a solution to enable the company to implement a survey to collect the preferences of its “high value customers” uses historical data to expand the reach of the customer survey.
As you can see from these examples, analytics helps BA find better solutions to the problems they’re trying to solve. Business analytics and advanced analytics are extremely useful problem-solving tools. Used well, they can make for better software products, happier customers, higher profitability, more productive employees, improved accuracy in risk modeling, quicker work turnaround, and all sorts of positive outcomes.
So to answer the reader’s question, not only it’s possible for a business analyst to focus on both business analysis and business analytics in the work they do, it can hep you dramatically expand the value you deliver to your organization.
How to get there?
You can’t be great at business analytics without getting out in the real world and start spending time with business data. If you don’t have an opportunity within your workplace, find a nonprofit to help, and get to work analyzing their survey results or Google Analytics data. You don’t need a PhD in statistics, but being familiar with basic statistics will greatly enhance your career as a business analyst with analytics expertise, so find some online resources to help you get a solid grounding on this topic. Statistics training will help you enhance your analytical thinking and look at business problems differently.
For tips on getting started with predictive analytics, check out the resources listed at the end of the article It’s time for business analysts to add machine learning to their “bag of tricks”
Photo: Neerav Bhatt (CC)