The Differences Between a Business Analyst & a Data Analyst

Business analysts and data analysts possess unique expertise that supports IT projects.
Business analysts and data analysts possess unique expertise that supports IT projects. (Image: John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The selection of the appropriate individuals to support an information technology project can often be the key to the prevention of IT project overruns, limited return on investment, or manual workarounds that are required to supplement an IT solution in order to meet defined business objectives. Employing the correct staff members also diminishes the probability that the processes employed during an IT project will alienate the business community. The business analyst and the data analyst are two such staff members whose hands-on experience and technical expertise can greatly diminish the risk that is associated with any system development or enhancement project.

Business Analyst

A business analyst's understanding of an organization's operating and technological environments enables him to serve as an intermediary between the organization's user community and its information technology staff. The analyst documents a planned system's functional requirements, creates a business case that supports the IT project, conveys the requirements to the information technology staff, and confirms by a review of system project documentation that approved and documented business requirements are correctly represented in a system project plan. In addition, the analyst confirms through system testing that a developed or revised system meets the functional, performance and security requirements that are defined for the system.

Data Analyst

The focus of a data analyst is the collection, organization and analysis of data. Data management and reporting systems are used by the analyst to collect and organize data that may be extracted from multiple databases. In addition, the analyst determines the data collection protocols to be used that will best support the subsequent extrapolation and interpolation of values required to meet business objectives. The data analyst selects the reporting tools required to create graphs, charts and other report formats necessary to support the user community. Analysts also possess the technical expertise required to troubleshoot data extraction and data storage issues.

Data Analyst Expertise

The data analyst skill set includes mathematical skills as well as experience with the use of reporting tools including Microsoft Access, Excel and Crystal Reports. Expertise with relational database design and development tools including MySQL and SQL Server is also useful. Frequently, data analysts have earned a four-year statistics, computer science or business administration degree.

Business Analyst Expertise

The skills of a business analyst may include expertise in the implementation of particular software such as SAP or PeopleSoft applications, in addition to experience working with data extraction and testing tools. Educational credentials frequently include a business degree. An MBA is not unusual. Analysts' work experience may be focused in a particular industry in that many business processes are industry specific. Professional experience that reflects support of change management, customer service and supply chain initiatives is also common.

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  • "Information Security Management Handbook"; Harold F. Tipton; 2003
  • "Filtering the Web to Feed Data Warehouses "; Abramowicz et al.; 2002
  • "CIO"; Business Analyst; August 2007
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