The job ‘business analyst’ may not sound thrilling, but it’s actually one of the most important, demanding and intellectually satisfying jobs in both the public and private sectors today.
Business analysts are the thinkers who chart the path to a future that’s both more profitable and sustainable. They work with the entire business and often with the most senior leaders, to make enterprises smarter and more agile for a rapidly evolving market.
Here are just six of the ways in which business analysts make a difference:
1. Analysing whole-business performance
In the broadest sense, the job of a business analyst is to use data to understand business needs. This can be an extremely varied task. It may begin with identifying the right data sources, then cleaning, de-duping and integrating those sources to gain a comprehensive, detailed and accurate understanding of the business.
Modern businesses often find it challenging to integrate data from a range of sources, for instance — in the case of a retailer — data from e-commerce sites, in-store point of sales, marketplaces and more. It’s the task of the business analyst to use these different data types to understand the company’s performance and position within the market, so that the board and other functions within the company can make effective and informed decisions.
2. Modelling new business strategies
Once you understand the business’s current position, the next is to decide what to do next. How can the business improve its returns, grow its market share and become more profitable? Although business analysis isn’t a new discipline, in the past it was often the confine of large companies with their own analytics teams: think the Ford Motor Company or IBM.
As a result, many companies made decisions based on incomplete data and an incomplete understanding of the data they did have. In the worst-case scenario, firms made important decisions based on what despairingly become known as the ’hi-ppo’ system – the ’highest paid person’s opinion.’
It’s a business analyst’s job to take the available data and use it as the basis from which to extrapolate different outcomes, depending on how the business specifies and modifies specific variables. This enables business leaders to make better, more informed decisions likely to deliver better business outcomes.
3. Spotting new opportunities
Sometimes, business analysts may find themselves working not just — or even not primarily — with internal data. Using external sources and intelligence, both quantitative and qualitative, a business analyst can help companies spot changes in the market landscape before those changes occur. This helps the company direct its resources to the activities and markets which will bring in the biggest returns. It also makes it possible to mitigate and even avoid risks, giving you an edge over less well-prepared competitors.
4. Accelerating price discovery
Price discovery is a process of discovering the right price for a good or service: the one that will deliver the best balance of sales volume and profit. The quicker the business can complete this process, the faster it can grow its market share and maximise its revenue. Rather than rely on a mixture of subjective experience, partial data and trial and error, working with a data analyst helps companies understand where their product fits in the competitive landscape and how to price accordingly.
5. Planning for technological transformation
One of a business analyst’s main roles is to match platforms and technology infrastructure of a company with the company’s needs. Drawing on data to understand the company’s current position, the analyst works with business leaders to build an outline of where the company wants to go next. The next step is to understand the business processes and inputs that must be part of any effort to achieve this goal. Once this information has been captured, the business analyst can work with other functions to understand how these processes and inputs can be optimised and what technology platforms and systems are required to streamline and execute these processes in the most efficient and cost-effective way.
6. Optimising supply chains
Supply chains and logistics are incredibly complex aspects of any business model. Whether they’re well organised and optimised impacts everything from profitability, through resilience — as we saw so memorably in the first days of national lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic — right through to carbon emissions and sustainability. By analysing variables such as the availability and use of different modes of transport, the efficiency of freight utilisation, the use of warehousing and so on, business analysts have a vital part to play in moving companies on from solely price-based logistics models. This in turn is crucial to making supply chains more robust and environmentally sustainable.
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