Today’s businesses are more data-driven and analytically minded than ever before. Equipped with vast amounts of data flowing in from a variety of sources, these companies have changed their decision-making processes to seek a competitive edge and keep up with the rapidly changing status quo.
While a large portion of the ongoing transformation is driven by breakthroughs in information technology — dealing with the collection, storage and analysis of big data — there is a human side to the trend as well. Organizations need data analytics experts to help turn raw data into actionable insights for decision-makers to use.
If you have a talent for both strategy and technology, you can take your place on a business analytics career path. By accumulating both work experience and education in data analytics and related subjects, you can become part of the increasingly indispensable group responsible for turning data into informed decisions.
What is the Importance of Business Analytics for Companies?
Businesses across industry lines are shifting their decision-making processes to favor analytics over intuition. This process is being actively helped along by digitization, with nearly every communication method today leaving a trail of data that can be harvested and used to fuel more accurate insights. The fact that so many everyday items are being equipped with sensors and connected into the so-called internet of things has added many additional sources of rich data.
The importance of business analytics is tied to the fact that this is becoming a default way of gathering corporate intelligence. Now, organizations that don’t use data to make their business decisions may be falling behind competitors that have found ways to convert streams of information into coherent insights.
As CIO magazine explains, business analytics is an advanced form of business intelligence. BI involves using data modeling to ascertain the status of operations, while analytics is about creating forward-looking projections. While a BI dashboard can give executives a good overview of their current performance, analytics algorithms are even more useful from a decision-making perspective, as they give a window into potential future outcomes.
What Are the Technologies Powering Modern Business Analytics?
There are several interrelated technology trends enabling companies to create increasingly accurate, and therefore useful, projections. Big data analytics solutions emerged out of BI systems, allowing organizations to analyze a volume of data too large for conventional algorithms to parse, while also letting them work with raw, unstructured information.
From big data analytics came machine-learning algorithms and artificial intelligence. Machine-learning algorithms become “smarter” over time, refining their own processes to deliver increasingly accurate and useful results based on their initial outcomes. AI uses predictive models to anticipate users’ needs and help them complete their work more effectively.
As IBM points out, AI will soon represent a type of “superpowers” for business insights. Features such as natural language processing, where a query written out in a conversational way yields useful insights from the algorithm, are powered by AI and can improve the effectiveness of a data analyst. AI can even automate the process of providing insights, pointing out future opportunities or pitfalls for users to be aware of, all based on solid data sets.
What Does a Business Analytics Professional Do?
No technology stands on its own, not even rising innovations such as AI. While the AI seen in science fiction is truly autonomous, in a business setting it needs guidance from human analysts to deliver results. Business analytics professionals are important members of their respective teams because their companies are increasingly driven by data-based insights, and those insights are gathered by the analytics team.
CIO notes that the phenomenon of many departments using data-based insights is relatively recent. In the past, only dedicated members of the IT team could make effective use of BI and related technologies. The latest generation of visualizations has a wider audience.
PayScale defines the analytics manager role as someone who coordinates work ranging from research and analysis to analytics strategy creation. While BI and analytics are at their best when the dashboards containing insights are available to a wide variety of users, there must be experts creating those visualizations — these are the analytics managers.
To take on such a role, you will need an impressive breadth of knowledge. Being an analytics manager means combining a few interrelated disciplines. You must comprehend the business use cases for the insights generated by business analytics algorithms, while also knowing enough about the nuts and bolts of data science to fine-tune the software involved.
How Much Do Business Analytics Professionals Earn?
Due to the essential nature of business analytics for today’s companies, the professionals who work with data are well-compensated and valuable members of their teams. According to PayScale, the average base salary for an analytics manager is $96,650. More experienced employees in these roles often make six figures.
The impressive earning potential of analytics managers reflects the fact that they have risen through the ranks from more transactional roles to take on strategic responsibility for the direction of the data analytics and insights programs at their respective companies. Hiring managers won’t entrust such roles to just anyone — fortunately, there are professional and educational opportunities to build relevant knowledge.
How Can You Make a Career in Business Analytics?
Working up through the ranks of employees responsible for BI, advanced analytics and data management can begin at the entry level. CIO indicates that some people begin working as BI analytics with a bachelor’s degree. To rise to a higher level of responsibility and salary, however, more education may be necessary alongside years of positive contributions to the team.
PayScale concurs that it is possible to begin work in analytics with a bachelor’s degree in a related field, but also adds that there are numerous opportunities for advancement beyond an analytics manager role. Next steps could include working as the director of analytics or a senior manager of analytics. From there, some companies offer VP-level positions specializing in data analysis, showing just how integral information use has become to corporate strategy.
If you’re interested in furthering your knowledge of analytics, and adding a diploma to your resume while working full-time, you can enroll in an online master’s degree program. Considering the constant forward motion of technology, as well as the need for experienced individuals to take on high-level responsibilities around data use, these programs may represent an exciting opportunity to build the type of experience leaders are looking for.
What Can You Learn in a Master of Science in Business Analytics Degree Program?
The online Master of Science in Business Analytics program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business exists at the meeting point of strategy and data usage. This program, which is taken 100% online and can be completed in as few as 20 months, has been designed by experienced faculty with deep connections in the world of IT and business to provide the latest insights on effective analytics in a corporate context.
Demonstrating how widely business analytics concepts have been embraced by today’s companies, the online MSBA program offers tracks in business leadership, finance, marketing and health care. Any kind of data can become fuel for valuable insights today, and the master’s-level curriculum reflects up-to-the-moment use cases, ranging from sports management and cybersecurity to public-sector applications.
By learning how to perform data mining, create predictive analytics models and manage large amounts of unstructured information, you can build a skill set that expands upon foundational BI and analytics concepts. Companies today are treating their data as a resource, and by discovering the most valuable uses for that resource, you can get in line with the future direction of corporate strategy.
To learn more about the online MSBA and discover how it fits in with your unique career path and plans, visit the program page.