Business Analyst vs Data Analyst


Somebody inquired to me in one of the professional networking site if I can suggest what the difference between a Business analyst and data analyst is.

This is a dilemma that is common in the minds of numerous professionals who are new to Business analysis or intending to get into this space.

As the name proposes a first hand analysis by any layman will state that the business analyst role includes analysis from a business perspective, though the data analyst role deals with primarily analyzing data.

Some more profound analysis of both the roles will show the following factors:

Business Analyst

Business analysts do a lot of things, however, they are called change enablers according to BABoK v3, which is very valid. In most IT projects, the role of a business analyst, primarily centers around requirements analysis.

On a high level the set of tasks performed by business analysts are not limited but mostly as given below:

  • Understand genuine needs/issues of the stakeholders or business users
  • Elicit and document business requirements
  • Ensure exhaustiveness/completeness of business requirements
  • Manage requirements changes coming up in the life cycle of the project
  • Ensure that the development / technology team has comprehended the functionalities and necessities, and is headed in the coveted way

At a strategic level, BAs should:

  1. Ask right questions
  2. Solve a business need or issue
  3. Think ahead about the product/solution
  4. Try to solve the problems/needs of the business users
  5. Come up, with better solutions that deal with stated and implied needs and so on.
  6. Product visioning road map, etc.

Data Analyst

While a data analyst principally manages analyzing large volumes of data, modeling data with the intent of coming up with useful business insights. He/she comes up with hypothesis and behavioral patterns on the basis of predictive analytics to support decision making. Data/information is gathered/accumulated, audited, cleaned up and after that broke down on various relevant parameters. Models and correlations are formed/drawn between different diverse parameters and after that inferences are presented and hypothesis arrived at.

These further drive the business business decisions in the enterprises.

Data analysis frequently utilizes factual statistical models to come up with the hypothesis and decisions.

For instance, data analysis deals with a lot of consumer driven businesses and driving their strategic business decisions.

Subsequently the output of the data analysts forms the input for the business decisions and thus essentially how the system should be built/intended to suit those decisions.

What are the driving factors for customer’s behavior or pattern, and designing the system based on these patterns or behavior is governed by the work of a data analyst.

So, a data analyst utilizes the information gathered by the organization in their everyday tasks, examins that, presents the correlation and hypothesis drawn from them and this thus help companies settle on business choices/decisions. These could be client socioeconomics, sales, deals information which is vital/key to the organization.

Though business analysts define the features or functionalities of the system. They solve problems by putting the right feature/requirement in the system.

Skills wise both the roles have comparability and contrasts.

Similar skills needed for both the roles are as given, but not limited to the below list:

  • Analytical mind
  • Trying to create opportunity
  • Ability to see the master plan and the bigger picture
  • A good business acumen
  • Presentation aptitudes
  • Stakeholder management

Aptitudes that differ for the part of a business analyst and a data analyst

Data Analyst Business Analyst

Can be Individual contributor

Team contribution level : Medium

A large part of data analysis should be possible by the expert himself/herself.

Accomplishment of business analyst lies in influencing the system/project to be successful. Hence the role demands the person to be a great team player and have to make business and IT/system developers work together as a team.

Team contribution level : Relatively higher

A relatively small part of business analysis tasks can be done by the analyst himself / herself.
Need to have a strong knack of numbers and mathematical mind.

Need to be collaborators
Need to have great communication and interpersonal skill

Knowledge of business intelligence and data mining skills is needed
Knowledge of Modeling, Requirements management tools, wire framing tools is needed
Knowledge of statistical tools and models is an added advantage
Knowledge of the domain is an added advantage

A large number of organizations still use both the terms reciprocally and view them as same.

We can see from the above the task, skills and the people with whom business analysts and data analysts work are quite different..

Both the roles have extraordinary future and they bring in unique set of value to the table.

With more of consumers data being accessible, data analysts have a high potential to affect lives of individuals and make difference to businesses with predictive and analytical business insights.

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Author: Ananya Pani, Co-Founder, Adapative US 

My mission is to help business analysts to build a successful professional career. I have helped 2000+ BAs in choosing a better career and help them achieve professional success.

I co-founded Adaptive US, #1 IIBA V3 training organization.  I am also a strong supporter of encouraging women workforce in technology and has helped many women to come back to work after long career breaks.

If you like my posts please like/share/comment and spread the word in your network. Would love to connect with fellow professionals. You can also reach me at [email protected]

About my organization, Adaptive US: We provide training, study guides, question banks, necessary PDUs for ECBA, CCBA, CBAP certifications.  For more details, please visit


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LDO posted on Monday, August 6, 2018 6:04 AM
Very good definition of both roles Ananya, you summaries them equally well. The only addition I might add is that in the organisation I work for the data analyst tends to focus more on extracting the right data, then the marketeers or other business users tend to make the tactical decisions based on the results. You've sort of said that anyway in your article.

Personally I dislike data analyst and as I do not I have the aptitude for that type of work. You need a mind that easily recognizes patterns and has a mathematical bias. Which you have already mentioned. However I do think the business analyst needs some understanding of data modelling or conceptual modelling when undertaking a requirements analysis, but again that different to purely analysing data.
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