Are Business Analysts and Data Analysts The Same?

The important roles of Business Analysts or Data Analysts can, in simple terms, be described as dealing with data in order to enhance the company performances.

For those who are new in the field and are just thinking about which career path will suit them better, that simplistic job description can bring some confusion about differences between those two.

So, are Business Analysts and Data Analysts the same?

Business and Data Analysts are not the same. Data Analysts collect and examine raw data through data mining, look for patterns, and create systems and reports in which they transform a bunch of data into valuable information for the decision-makers. A Business Analyst incorporates that information with the general business strategy to suggest and implement changes.

While both professions, BA, and DA, deal with data, the difference is in what they do with them.

We can say that analyzing data is just a means to an end for the Business Analyst, which does not mean that the DA role is simpler or less critical. It is just different.

In this article, I am going to point out the differences between the BA and DA going through job descriptions, responsibilities, and skill sets needed for those two professions.  

8 Clear Difference Between a BA and DA

There are many similarities in the jobs of a BA and DA. Both jobs serve the same purpose; to improve organization performances through thorough research and analytical knowledge.

The easiest way to explain what it means to be a good Business Analyst or a Data Analyst is to list the differences between the two.

Although the jobs will somewhat differ depending on the company and the domain, here are some main differences between BA and DA:

1.     The general responsibilities of the Business Analyst and Data Analyst are different. BA is in charge of outlining, providing a functional specification for the system requirements according to the company needs. BA will, in line with internal and external factors, determine what those requirements are.

A DA will use data mining to extract data that those systems will collect. They will also find the best way to translate and use those raw data to provide necessary insights and present those to the decision-makers.

2.     Both BA and DA rely on data, but there are two completely opposite sides of the IT system. The BA will use creative thinking to imagine and navigate what kind of IT system is needed. They will set standards for the design and make sure that the system is implemented.

A DA will use the system in place to extract and give meaning to the data collected.

It’s important to remember that those duties, while different, are all interconnected.  BA has to have a general knowledge of how the system works and how it can be analyzed.

DA will use technical tools and skills to analyze data but has to have a clear understanding of requirements to provide useful information.

3.     Although there are some overlaps in the tasks they perform, there is a clear difference between primary duties for BA and DA.

BA is responsible for defining needs, anticipating problems, and delivering solutions. They are agents of change in the organization. For achieving that a BA needs to:

·        Analyze business and market

·        Collaborate with stakeholders, clients, and company departments

·        Model requirements

·        Propose and deliver solutions

·        Project management and development

·        Testing solutions

DA spends the majority of their time looking at data, transforming numbers into stories.

The most common daily tasks for a DA include:

·        Scrubbing data and data entry

·        Designing and maintaining dashboards for data collection in different departments

·        Creating reports (for internal and external use)

4.     From the list of the main responsibilities and tasks, it becomes evident that problems BA and DA are facing are also somewhat different.

Issues addressed by DA will be data related while a BA job requires dealing with clients, stakeholders, or detecting problems within a team.

5.     Strong analytical skills are essential for both professions. DA requires stronger math and statistical analysis, while BA relies on a stronger understanding of business and strategic planning.

DA does not just collect and extract data. They use their analytical skills and experience in the field to do perspective analysis and probabilities to predict what might happen. Conclusions, or numbers, derived from statistics have no meaning without being shaped by DA’s business understanding and experience.

BA will use information delivered by DA and, in collaboration with stakeholders, market, internal and external strengths research and requirements, BA will propose solutions.

In simple terms, DA will suggest what might happen, and BA will decide how to prevent or enhance that possibility.

6.     DA’s role is more technical than BA.

Both Business Analyst and Data Analyst must be strong in creative and analytical thinking, have good communications skills, understanding, and knowledge of systems and business.

According to their primary roles and daily tasks here is a required essential skill list for those two professions:

Business AnalystData Analyst
·        Critical thinking and problem-solving skills·     
Strong business knowledge·       
General understanding of Software systems and program languages·       
Business Analysis tools (like Microsoft tools –Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio; and some more sophisticated modeling, or requirements management tools)· 
Exceptional communication skills
·        High mathematical abilities·       
Programming and coding (SQL, Oracle, Phyton …)· 
Analyzing, modeling and data interpretation·        Methodical and logical thinking with attention to details·       
Reporting and data visualization·       
Good communication skills

7.     When it comes to the workplace environment and team-work, DA’s work is more independent VS collaborative BA’s role.

DA will at all times have to deal with data primarily and will most commonly answer to an executive or a specific program manager.

An important part of BA’s role is a collaboration with stakeholders, different departments and managers, and clients.

8.     There isn’t a straightforward answer or a path for the position requirements of a Business or Data analyst.

Most commonly, though, a Business Analyst will have an undergraduate degree in business or business-related field. Often a BA will start as a project manager, IT or DA, and then move up to the position of BA. Aside from degree or experience, most important will be skills listed in the table above.

DA will most typically hold an undergraduate degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. An advanced degree is usually a bonus but not a must.

The main difference between requirements for those positions is that for BA, the focus will be on business and industry. At the same time, for DA, primary skills are related to technical, mathematical, or statistical skills.

While talking about differences, it is crucial to add that success of Business Analyst, and Data Analyst will depend on each other, on how well they communicate and deliver their tasks/solutions towards a common goal.

Who Earns More? Do Business Analysts Earn More Than Data Analysts?

Salary wise, it is hard to tell which profession earns more. The difference will depend on the industry, company, experience, and skillset.

Both occupations are in high demand, and according to Glassdoor, Data Analysts typically make between $43k – $85k.

If you are experienced in high demand technical skills like Machine Learning, Big Data, Al, Python, your salary would be more than an average of $60k for DA.

A Business Analyst, according to the same source, will earn in between $45k – $81k. For BA, the factor that will impact the raise in salary the most is experience level, while technical knowledge can also somewhat increase the average of $60k.

For example, a Senior Business Analyst can earn $114k, plus the bonuses.

Which Is a Better Career Path? BA or DA?

Choosing between being a Business Analyst or a Data Analyst at the very beginning of someone’s career revolves around personal strengths and preferences.

If you are more a people person and have more persuasive communication skills than technical, than you should probably go for a BA. If, on the other hand, prefer to work more independently, enjoy playing with numbers, and making sense out of the significant amount of data, the DA career path is definitely right for you.

BA is a more “outgoing” position. It requires you to be assertive with people as you have to schedule meetings, facilitate, negotiate between stakeholders, departments, clients.

People skills imply owning thick skin, patience, and leadership skills to deal with people-related issues. You are also more likely to travel more often with a BA job.

For many, dealing with numbers and having fewer executives to answer to, is less stressful. Issues you might come across in a DA job are all data related, and solutions do not depend on people but only on your skills and knowledge (although they must agree with the company’s requirements).

Final Thoughts

The good news, when deciding about your career path, is that the decision you are making at the very start of your career or education is not set in stone.

Both professions are in high demand. Both can give you excellent benefits and an exciting career. For being a BA and a DA, you need to be knowledgeable about business, be logical and analytical type, and have some software systems experience as well as excellent communication skills.

Because a business career starts with the mentioned skill sets, it’s common for people to move in between different projects until they find the place and work that suits them the best, being that a Business Analyst, Data Analyst, or other types of a BA.

Patrick is passionate about supporting other professionals to find success in their chosen career paths. So far, he has successfully navigated four career transitions and is currently a Product Manager Consultant helping businesses build products their customers love.