What is the difference between a Business Analyst and a Data Analyst?

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In today’s data-driven society, roles like Business Analysts and Data Analysts have become increasingly important. Though their titles might sound slightly similar, these roles have their unique purposes within a company.

Here, exclusively for Free-Work, I will answer a key question -- ‘What is the difference between a Business Analyst and a Data Analyst?’ -- mainly by outlining what the two roles have in common, and what they don’t, writes Drew Guinnane, head of data and analytics at global recruitment firm Leap29.

What is a Business Analyst?

Business Analysts act as a bridge between different parts of a company. They mainly focus on understanding what the business needs, identifying areas where improvements are possible, and figuring out how to make those improvements happen.

BAs work closely with various teams, gather and look at data, and then use that data to offer practical suggestions.

They play a crucial part in making sure processes, systems, and overall business operations run smoothly.

What is a Data Analyst?

Data Analysts are experts when it comes to numbers and data. They gather, clean, and study data to find meaningful information.

DAs work with large sets of data, tools for statistics, and ways to visualise data to provide valuable insights that help the company make decisions. Their main job is to answer questions or solve problems by using data.

What is the difference between Data Analysis and Business Analysis?

From my experience as a technology recruitment consultant (and based on conversations with DAs and BAs in today’s market), the key difference is that Business Analysts focus more on ‘the bigger picture,’ and they aim to understand the company's goals, processes, and overall strategy.

Data Analysts will touch on some of those aspects, but DAs mainly concentrate on the data itself. Their job is all about studying data to discover important patterns and trends.

What skills do Business Analyst have, and what skills do Data Analysts have?

A Business Analyst needs excellent communication, problem-solving, and project management skills.

They should be good at understanding how the business works and be experts in the industry they're in.

From speaking to seasoned professionals, it’s clear that right now and more than ever, Data Analysts require strong analytical and technical skills. They need to be great at working with data-manipulation tools, statistics, and data visualisation.

Responsibilities of a Data Analyst / Business Analyst, include…

Business Analysts gather and write down what the business needs, create plans for how to ‘make it happen,’ and work with different teams to define the scope of a project. They often help teams communicate better.

Data Analysts focus on collecting, cleaning, studying data, and reporting what they find. They create insights that help the company make decisions, often through charts and graphs.

What do Data Analysts do as a job, and what do Business Analysts do in their job?

Business Analysts create reports, models of business processes, and plans for projects. They also provide suggestions on how to make processes better or how to use new systems.

Data Analysts make reports, dashboards, and visualisations that show what's happening with data and what opportunities there might be.

Stakeholder interaction as a Business Analyst or Data Analyst

Business Analysts talk to lots of different people in the company, including leaders, IT teams, and the people who use the systems. In short, a Business Analyst makes sure the business gets what it needs!

Data Analysts mainly work with technical teams and other people who use data in the company.

What do Data Analysts and Business Analysts have in common?

Even though Business Analysts and Data Analysts have different jobs, there are areas where they have things in common.

Both roles need to understand and work with data.

And BAs and DAs use data to help them do their jobs and create reports that help the company make decisions.

Similarly, to do both roles you need to be good at solving problems! BAs solve problems related to how the business works, while DAs solve problems related to data.

Being able to talk to other people is important in both roles. BAs need to explain to IT and technical and/or technology teams what the business needs, whereas DAs have to explain what they find in data, to people who might not understand data.

What tools do Business Analysts and Data Analysts use?

Both roles often use tools to work with data, like Excel, SQL, and programs for making charts and graphs.

Business Analyst versus Data Analyst: final need-to-know

In a nutshell, Business Analysts and Data Analysts play different but equally important roles in a company. Business Analysts focus on making the company work better, while Data Analysts dive into data to find insights.

Understanding these differences and commonalities is crucial for businesses looking to make the most of their data-driven decisions.

Ultimately, both roles help the company succeed by using data to improve, become more efficient, and make smarter decisions.

Written by

Drew Guinnane

Head of Data and Analytics at Leap29

As head of data and analytics at Leap29, Drew is renowned for his expertise in recruiting top talent within the data and Business Intelligence (BI) sector. His deep industry knowledge and extensive network make him a trusted leader in connecting candidates with their dream roles and helping organisations find the perfect data-driven fit. His commitment to excellence and mentorship of future data professionals have solidified his reputation as a true industry expert.

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