5 essential traits of elite business analysts

If you’re interested in data and how it relates to business processes, a career as a business analyst (BA) might be for you. Business analysis will enable you to spend your days burrowing into numbers and emerging with nuggets of insight. You will need to really know your data to succeed. But as experienced business analysts will tell you, there’s much more to it than that. The ability to make data come alive for human beings — particularly those in management — is crucial.

We spoke to a range of BAs (and those who work with them) about what differentiates a superior analyst from the pack. The answers will help you set your priorities for advancing in your career, and will provide insight into what day-to-day life is like in this increasingly in-demand job.

1. They know their data

Data is at the foundation of what a business analyst does: You’re expected to provide data-driven advice on how your business needs to grow and adapt. That doesn’t mean just throwing numbers into a spreadsheet; it means understanding where that data comes from and how it was gathered before digging into it and looking for insights.

“Business analysts should understand how data are collected and what they represent,” says Marcio Tabach, lead analyst with technology research and advisory firm ISG. “Sometimes the way data are collected brings an intrinsic bias. For example, invoices are not an appropriate dataset for forecasting demand, as they are limited by what the company can supply.”