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The Role of Data Analysts in Business Success


The decisions made by business leaders determine whether a business' goals, growth strategies and vision are realized. Decisions based on high-quality, accurate data are most likely to be effective in quantifiable ways. Data analysts are responsible for ensuring, analyzing and deriving insight from information to make accurate and useful to business decision-makers.

A data analyst's role in the data-driven, decision-making process requires technical expertise beyond the typical business user. The Master of Science (M.S.) in Data Analytics online program Northwest Missouri State University helps students develop this technical expertise. The advanced study of data analytics as applied to business processes can propel a professional's career at the intersection of business and data science.

How Do Data Analysts Fit Into the Data-Driven Business Framework?

In the company's digital magazine, CIO summarizes a data analyst's role: "using techniques from a range of disciplines, including computer programming, mathematics, and statistics, data analysts draw conclusions from data to describe, predict, and improve business performance."

Data analysts gather, organize and strip data of poor quality, redundant or anomalous information. These professionals then analyze that information, searching for patterns to interpret and provide usable insight for business users and decision-makers.

According to Medium, "At its core, data analytics is about answering questions and making decisions." Data analysts translate data for business use, helping business decision-makers understand both the questions and answers data can provide.

What Are the Components of Data Analytics?

Medium breaks down data analytics into four forms, depending on the questions and answers business users are looking for: Descriptive, Diagnostic, Predictive and Prescriptive.

Essentially, descriptive analytics paints a picture of what has happened, providing business users insight into what has worked well and what needs improvement. Diagnostic analytics can provide insight into why something happened, allowing business users to target successful practices to continue and problems to remediate.

Predictive analytics looks to the future, helping business users understand what will likely happen given courses of action and surrounding variables. Finally, prescriptive analytics suggests what business users should do to achieve desired results and outcomes.

Performing data analysis used to be an exhaustive process of collecting, cleaning and detecting patterns in datasets. With modern digital technologies driven by machine learning and automation, software using advanced computer algorithms can analyze vast datasets rapidly and accurately.

These technologies help data analysts answer much more complex questions in real time, as compared to lengthy, painstaking data analysis processes of the past. Tech-driven processes can now identify nuanced relationships between data points, which allows for unprecedented levels of predictive and prescriptive analysis.

What Business Processes Can Data Analysts Help Improve?

The insights data analysts extract from available internal and external data drive modern business analytics and decision-making across myriad business processes.

For example, data analytics surrounding customers' buying habits, preferences and feedback help business users improve customer relations, foster brand loyalty and invaluable word-of-mouth exposure. Analysis of market trends and conditions prescribes effective product development, marketing techniques and growth strategies.

Risk analysis and predictive analysis of potential disruption drives emergency response planning and innovation strategy for securing competitive advantages. Diagnostic analysis of performance, production and supply chain processes helps users identify inefficiencies to remediate, improving the bottom line.

What Jobs Are Appropriate for Data Analysts?

Data analysts deal with the technical side of information analytics. Roles based in the technical aspects of data analytics may be delineated into specialized roles beyond the generalist data analyst role. These can include roles like that of logisticians, big-data architects, database administrators or senior data scientists. These professionals may be responsible for specific tasks in a large data analytics operation.

However, data analysts also perform the essential task of translating data into usable insight for business analytics and decision-making. This involves rendering data analysis into accessible forms like data visualization, data storytelling and the guided use of business intelligence (BI) tools.

Northwest's M.S. in data analytics online program helps students learn to apply advanced data analytics to business management processes and real-world business problems. Graduates are well suited to roles in business analytics, business intelligence or management analytics.

Data analysts who develop business-savvy, management and communication skills can also rise to leadership positions. With experience, they can pursue advanced careers as IT project managers, computer and information systems managers or even executive-level chief analytics, information or technology officers.

Data analysts play an essential role in business success. They support effective decision-making and the data-driven culture modern companies strive for. Plus, the expertise data analysts gain through advanced study can further drive their careers to new, rewarding heights.           

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's online M.S. in Data Analytics program.



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