An Introduction to Business Analytics

An Introduction to Business Analytics

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These days it can often feel as though there’s a new business trend or buzzword being talked about every minute. Sometimes it can be difficult to know which ones are just fads and which ones are worth paying attention to. One talking point that is definitely here to stay, however, is analytics.

According to the dictionary, analytics is the ‘systematic computational analysis of data’, or the information resulting from such an analysis. Now you’d be forgiven for thinking that this doesn’t sound very exciting! However, analytics is actually an essential tool for pretty much any business that wants to succeed. That’s because it enables companies to make better, more informed decisions based on evidence. This in turn leads to greater efficiency, higher revenue, and more success overall.

If this has piqued your interest, read on to find out more about business analytics, why it’s important, and how you can make it a part of your career by taking a business analytics degree.

Big data

We live in a world dominated by data. Data is everywhere, and there are phenomenal amounts of it being generated on a daily basis. According to Raconteur, 320 billion emails will be sent every day by 2021, and by 2025, 463 exabytes of data (that’s 1000⁶ bytes) will be created every single day. In total, the entire digital universe is estimated to be around 40 zettabytes, or 40 trillion gigabytes. For context, that’s about 40 times more bytes than there are stars in the observable universe. That’s an unfathomable amount of data!

Such is the importance of data that the Economist claims it is now the world’s most valuable resource. Yet it could be argued that it is really only valuable if the data is analyzed – and this is exactly why companies are investing more and more in data analytics. By analyzing the huge amount of data they now have access to, companies can enjoy a broad range of benefits regardless of the industry they operate in. It can also be of great use to wider society, for example by helping scientists to study global warming or doctors to detect diseases at early stages.

Here we’re going to focus on the use and value of data analysis in business – in other words, business analytics – and how a business analytics degree could be the perfect next step in your career.

What is business analytics?

Business analytics is the means by which companies use quantitative methods, skills, tools, and technologies to examine and interpret their data. These processes are carried out to analyze their performance to gain valuable insights and make effective decisions about what to do in the future.

The data used can be gathered from just about anywhere, and there are a number of different statistical methods that can be applied. All the various possibilities will be explored if you take a business analytics degree, but one useful aspect is identifying patterns and trends within datasets. This can be done using historical data or even by monitoring key performance indicators in real-time. It’s important to always be using the most current information to ensure that the conclusions you draw, and the decisions you make based on those conclusions, are as accurate as possible.

Generally speaking, business analytics can be divided into four types. Deciding which is the most appropriate type of business analytics to use will depend on the specific situation and end goals:

  • Descriptive analytics – interpreting historical data to attempt to identify patterns and trends, enabling a big picture look at the past and present
  • Diagnostic analytics – focusing on past performance to try and work out which particular elements influence specific trends
  • Predictive analytics – using statistics and machine learning to forecast possible future outcomes and the likelihood of them occurring
  • Prescriptive analytics – examining data on past performance to make recommendations about what a company should do in the future and figuring out which actions will have the best results

Similarly, there are a number of different methods at your disposal in business analytics. Many of them have their own modules in a business analytics degree because there is a lot to be learned for each one. They include:

  • Data mining – using techniques such as clustering and outlier detection to sift through massive datasets and uncover trends and patterns that are not immediately visible
  • Data visualization – taking information and insights from data analysis and presenting it in an interactive graph or chart to make it easier to understand and act upon
  • Data aggregation – gathering, centralizing, cleaning and filtering data to get it ready for analyzing
  • Forecasting – analyzing previous data from specific periods or seasons to make predictions about future behavior or events
  • Text mining – extracting information from text found anywhere from social media sites to blogs and even scripts from call centers
  • Sequence and association identification – finding predictable actions that are performed sequentially or in association with other actions
  • Optimization – engaging simulation techniques to test out optimal scenarios once predictions have been made

This all sounds impressive, but before you enroll in a business analytics degree you might be wondering exactly how it can be used in the real world. There are a whole multitude of practical uses for business analytics, and in many cases, the only limit is your imagination. However, here are some examples to illustrate what can be done with these powerful tools and techniques:

  • Forecasting customer opinions based on data from social media
  • Using customer demographics to personalize messaging
  • Predicting call volume to optimize staffing resources in a call center
  • Forecasting retail sales around specific holidays or seasons based on past data
  • Predicting which customers are likely to cancel a service so that incentives to stay can be offered

Why is business analytics valuable?

The above indicates that business analytics can be extremely valuable for businesses, and there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, it helps companies to make better, more informed decisions that are based on real data and evidence. This leads to greater efficiency and productivity. Not only can this save a lot of money, it can also lead to greater customer experience and satisfaction. This, of course, also means that businesses can expect to enjoy greater profits as a result of investing in business analytics.

There is an almost limitless amount of information locked up in the data that businesses have access to, and business analytics is the key to reaching it. The insights that can be gained cannot be underestimated and are an effective way to improve a company’s strategies. They can make a business more competitive, enable them to respond quickly to changes in their industry, and also plan for the future much more accurately.

Should I be considering a career in business analytics?

Having read this far, you may now be thinking about taking a business analytics degree in order to embark on a career in the field. This is a very smart choice for ambitious and driven people because many businesses report that while they appreciate the need for conducting business analytics, the number of employees they have who are skilled in the subject are in short supply. Business analysis is frequently given as one of the top talents employers are looking for, meaning that those who have been trained in it are often able to command higher salaries.

Business analytics is also a skill that can be applied in almost any industry, especially once you have gained your business analytics degree from a reputable university. This brings you increased employability and job security too. It will open up many more doors than previously. Therefore, whatever your background, experience, and existing qualifications, you will likely find a use for the topics you’ll learn on a business analytics degree.

Some of the common jobs that graduates from business analytics degree programs go on to do include:

  • Account analyst
  • Business intelligence analyst
  • Business modeler
  • Chief data officer
  • Consultant
  • Data architect
  • Data integrity analyst
  • Data scientist
  • Data specialist
  • Information analyst
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Management analyst
  • Marketing analyst
  • Operations research analyst
  • Performance analyst
  • Supply chain analyst
  • Statistician
  • Technology analyst

These roles could be in any industry that interests you, from banking and marketing to retail or IT. They could be in a small company or a large one, a consultancy, or a new business you’ve founded yourself.

What will I learn on a master’s in business analytics degree?

A business analytics degree will teach you how to interpret and analyze data, giving you advanced knowledge in analytics, business strategy and communication, as well as training you in the use of statistical techniques and powerful tools and technologies. This will be done through a blend of rigorous academic work and hands-on experience with computing software, to enable you to try out what you’ve learned in real-world scenarios.

Depending on where and how you study, there will probably be a mix of lectures and seminars, workshops and case studies, plus group and individual projects. Towards the end of the course, you may also have to conduct your own research and write a dissertation on a relevant topic that is of interest to you, all under the guidance of an expert supervisor.

Most master’s in business analytics degrees will be composed of a series of modules. These are usually divided into core courses that are compulsory and optional courses that you can choose between in order to tailor the program to your interests. The exact modules on offer will vary between colleges. However, the following are some of the ones you might be able to take:

  • Analytics capstone
  • Applied deep learning
  • Digital marketing analytics
  • Data mining
  • Data modeling
  • Data visualization
  • Data warehousing
  • Financial data analytics
  • Game theory for business analytics
  • Leadership skills
  • Machine learning
  • Managerial decision making
  • Natural language processing
  • Network analytics
  • Predictive analytics
  • Prescriptive analytics
  • Python programming
  • Responsible innovation
  • Risk analysis
  • Statistics and econometrics

Generally, the program will be either one or two years in length, with a choice of either full-time or part-time study. These days, there is also the option to take your business analytics degree online, which can offer more flexibility and convenience for those with family or work commitments. It also gives you greater options of where to study, as you don’t have to live near to the institution you study with. Just bear in mind that you may find you have to put in more effort in terms of staying motivated, connecting with your fellow students and teachers, and managing your time.

Is a master’s degree worth it?

If you are interested in the subject you’re studying, that is often enough to make going to graduate school worth it. However, it’s particularly true for a master’s in business analytics degree for all the reasons described above. In addition, there are a multitude of more general benefits that come from gaining a graduate qualification.

For instance, it enables you to develop many so-called soft skills that employers in all areas value. These include talents such as written and verbal communication, problem-solving, leadership, creativity, critical thinking, research, presentation skills, teamwork, independence, confidence, and more. They also provide great networking opportunities with like-minded professionals, as well as demonstrating to potential employers that you are driven, dedicated, motivated, and committed to your personal development.

How do I enroll on a business analytics degree?

The first step is to identify where you want to study your business analytics degree. Browse college websites and check the modules they offer, the entry requirements for their program, tuition costs, plus the availability of online or part-time study if applicable. You might also want to see what the research interests of their staff are in preparation for when you’ll be conducting your project or writing your dissertation.

In order to apply, you will probably need to write a personal essay or statement about why you want to study for a business analytics degree and what you hope to gain from the program, and provide a couple of academic references who can testify to your suitability for the course. Good luck!