Business analyst vs data analyst: which does your business need?

By Robert Half on 2 May 2022
Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes

As the fourth-largest market in the Asia-Pacific region for internet data centres, Singapore is well on its way to becoming a data storage and processing hub, in addition to its existing status as a global business hotspot.

Established as a business and tech hub that sets a global standard for IT infrastructure, Singapore’s need for talented candidates to accommodate the growing fields of business analytics and data analytics is higher than ever.

And with global borders slowly reopening, choosing whether to hire a business analyst vs a data analyst can each come with your organisation’s individual needs and goals.

Should I choose a business analyst or a data analyst?

A data analyst is an IT professional who sifts through massive datasets to identify technology trends, problems, and possible solutions for the organisation.

They do this through specialised software, and present their data-driven findings in a manner that is accessible to business leaders and stakeholders.

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A business analyst is technology specialist who identifies and solves IT problems for the organisation, as well as seeks out potential opportunities.

In most cases, a business analyst will bridge the gap between IT and business teams to provide the best possible solutions to the organisation and its stakeholders.

In other words, although business analysts and data analysts both work towards the same organisational goals, how they do this varies significantly.

What is driving demand for these roles today?

Businesses operate in a dynamic and data-driven world today, so it’s easy to see why the need for problem solvers with an attention to data-level detail is on the rise.

For example, consider how swiftly the pandemic changed how business is done globally.

As a result, the need for bright and perceptive professionals who can manage and interpret data, as well as swiftly implement organisational-level decisions is higher than ever before.

What are key differences between these roles?

The key differences between business analysts vs data analysts is their approach to organisational problem-solving and optimisation.

Generally speaking, data analysts examine existing datasets to extract information.

This might involve finding trends, extrapolating outcomes and making predictions, and using past trends to solve problems. This often involves using specialised tools and software, to create or tweak algorithms to harness information and trends.

Data analysts often present their findings to the organisation and its stakeholders using data visualisation, outlining the data in a manner that clearly displays trends and forecasts.

On the other hand, business analysts solve problems and optimise the organisation’s performance using needs analysis – meaning that the human element is more significant than data alone.

A business analyst might, for example, lead training initiatives for employees or identify and assess existing problems in team processes.

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What to look for when hiring a data analyst – skills, experience, qualifications

Data analysts typically come from a STEM background, with extensive background knowledge in data processing, handling, programming, and analytics. Specialised knowledge to look out for on candidates’ CVs include SQL and statistical programming.

Qualifications for this role include degrees in computer science, mathematics, and/or science and engineering. Nowadays, institutions across the globe offer specialised degrees in data analytics.

In addition to programming expertise, an understanding of data analytics software and statistics and machine learning algorithms, data analysts must be familiar with data visualisation tools.

Ideal data analyst candidates should have proven experience handling massive datasets, as well as the ability to make data accessible for organisational decisions (through data visualisation).

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What to look for when hiring a business analyst - skills, experience, qualifications

Although they will need to have some familiarity with data in order to make effective organisational-level decisions, business analysts typically come from business backgrounds, although this isn’t a necessity.

Qualifications for an ideal business analyst candidate might include degrees in business information systems or business analytics, or a more general business degree even.

More relevant than the degree here, however, is how well a business analyst candidate can demonstrate analytical skills to deliver data-driven solutions, evaluate and optimise processes within the organisation, and thoughtfully problem-solve on an organisational level.

Strong candidates for business analyst roles will have a proven ability to think critically, negotiate and communicate between clients, stakeholders, and the organisation, and a foundational understanding of business intelligence tools.

Specialised knowledge to look out for on candidates’ CVs include both Microsoft Visio and Excel.

Related: Making your final hiring decision

Still unsure of whether you’re looking for a business analyst vs a data analyst? Let us help. With over 300 locations worldwide, and one of Singapore’s leading IT recruitment agencies, Robert Half offers access to expert recruiters and talented candidates.

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