What Is Business Analytics?

Business analytics is a branch of data science that encompasses a wide range of technologies, skills, and statistics in order to provide companies with insights into their strategies. Gartner defines business analytics as “[comprising] solutions used to build analysis models and simulations to create scenarios, understand realities, and predict future states.”

If you’re interested in studying data and mathematics, you might consider a business analytics career. 

Introduction to Business Analytics

What is business analytics, and how does it work in practice? Simply put, business analytics centers on the study of data for business purposes. Within the broader science of business analytics, there are several types that include descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics.

  • Descriptive analytics focuses on overall tendency and distribution of values in data sets. This type of analysis provides a summary of a set of data so that businesses can evaluate patterns within their current performances.
  • Predictive analytics uses statistical algorithms to predict the likelihood of future outcomes based on previous data sets. This type of analysis uses a company’s data history to assess future potential.
  • Prescriptive analytics provides statistics on not just what might happen for a business but also how they could operate better if certain actions are taken.

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

Business analysts work with organizations to study their data systems and develop business strategies. Their responsibilities may include the following:

  • Studying an organization’s systems to determine best business practices and policies.
  • Standardizing workflows for business operations.
  • Developing or updating a business’s computer system.
  • Strategizing solutions based on predictive analysis of a company’s needs.

Why Business Analytics Is So Important

The importance of business analytics is undeniable: Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are investing billions in collecting, studying, and selling data. Business analytics is arguably one of the most valuable assets that an organization has to gain insights on the inner workings of their business. By understanding what has happened or is happening in an organization, strategists can make better decisions regarding their operations and systems.

Examples of Business Analytics Applications

Business analytics is applied in practice across nearly all industries. Using math and statistics, business leaders are able to find meaning in data in order to make better decisions for their companies. Among its many applications, business analytics can be used to enhance customer experience, improve productivity, and forecast market trends for organizations.

For example, Microsoft applied business analytics to study how patterns of remote work across their teams were changing the company. Their findings provided a nuanced understanding of how employees adapted to changing working conditions. 

Likewise, in an effort to improve customer experience, Uber developed a tool that uses machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to help agents better resolve over 90 percent of customer support issues. 

Business Analytics Tools

There are a variety of tools used in business analytics. Data mining tools are used to explore trends in large data sets with AI, machine learning, and database systems. In order to analyze data and make predictions, text analytics and business intelligence tools are also applied to convert unstructured text and raw data into meaningful information for business analysts to draw conclusions from. Some common business analytics tools include the following:

  • Python: programming language that emphasizes readability.
  • Apache Hadoop: software library built for distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers.
  • MySQL: database management system designed to allow users to add, access, and process data.
  • Tableau: powerful data visualization platform used for data prep, analysis, governance, collaboration, and more. 
  • ThoughtSpot: business intelligence platform that uses AI to analyze large data sets.
  • Qlik Sense: data analytics solution that uses AI and machine learning to mine and process data.
  • SAS: analytics software company that creates several products and tools that use AI and automation for data mining, analysis, and visualization.
  • Excel: spreadsheet software program used to store and manage small or large data sets.

How to Get Started in Business Analytics

Curious about pursuing a business analytics career? While business analysts have a wide range of educational backgrounds and job options, many individuals start off by taking math, statistics, business, or data science/analytics courses. They also develop soft skills such as these:

  • Ability to interpret data sets and understand cost/benefit analysis.
  • Understanding of systems engineering concepts.
  • Knowledge of modeling techniques and methods.
  • Understanding of AI and machine learning tools.

To develop these competencies and others, interested candidates may enroll in a master’s in business analytics (MSBA) degree online or in-person

Is a Career in Business Analytics a Good Choice?

Globally, big data analytics is forecasted to reach a staggering market size of $549.73 billion by the year 2028, according to Fortune Business Insights. And by 2030, Allied Market Research projects that the global big data and business analytics market size will be valued at $684.12 billion.  

What’s in it for you? Data is here to stay—and as the industry continues to evolve, companies will seek out qualified individuals who can help them enhance their business decisions and services. If this interests you, then a business analytics career may be a good fit. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that operations research analysts earned a median annual salary of $86,200 in 2020. Generally, operations research analysts have the same or similar responsibilities as business analysts and are employed by the federal government, manufacturing companies, finance and insurance firms, scientific and technical services, and much more. Employment for operations research analysts is expected to grow 25 percent by 2030

Is a Business Analytics Degree Worth It?

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in business analytics, earning a relevant master’s degree is a step in that direction. The online Master of Science in Business Analytics program at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School prepares students to become data analysts who can provide valuable insights that transform businesses around the world. The online program provides comprehensive training on how to use data to find patterns that translate into business solutions. The course work prepares you to use various tools to extract meaningful data, clean corrupt data, write algorithms, and communicate data insights to leadership while providing real-world scenarios and lessons.

Comparing Careers

While pursuing a business-related degree such as a master’s in business analytics can help prepare you for a career as a a business analyst, you might pursue other jobs, including the following: 

  • Accountant
  • Financial manager
  • Market researcher
  • Personal financial advisor
  • Buyer

Business analytics job titles vary, as do work settings, daily duties, and earning potential. However, business analytics skills can be used in more than one role and are taught in many advanced degree programs. 

Business Analytics vs. MBA

In a master’s in business administration (MBA) program, students develop in-demand skills required for careers in business by exploring a wide range of topics, industries, and case studies. By contrast, an MS in business analytics program is more focused on data analysis and how it can be used to develop business solutions. An MS helps students develop a more specific and technical skill set, whereas an MBA offers an overview of business operations and business analytics roles and technicalities overall. 

Business Analytics vs. Data Science and Analytics

Business analyst vs. data analyst differences aren’t always clear-cut, as the two professionals often have to collaborate in the workplace or work on similar tasks and projects. Though both industries are worth billions of dollars, data science is centered on building and organizing data sets, while business analytics is more focused on forming insights from data sets that can be turned into business decisions. Data scientists provide the backbone for all data research, but business analysts specialize in using analytics to forecast budgets, mitigate risks, and diagnose market conditions. 

Business Analytics vs. Business Intelligence

Business intelligence enables businesses to organize and analyze data, whereas the importance of business analytics centers on diagnosing trends to help businesses make decisions for the future. Business intelligence is more focused on the present state of data, and business analytics uses data sets to forecast what is to come.   

Should You Go into Business Analytics?

Whether you’re confident about pursuing a career in business analytics, data, or finance or want to further your knowledge of mathematics and statistics, an online or in-person master’s in business analytics from Pepperdine Graziadio can help you meet your goals. 

Alternatively, Pepperdine students can earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or other equivalent degree in a specific discipline such as human resources or management and leadership. Learn more about Pepperdine’s online business programs as well as in-person business programs

Last updated February 2022.