Data Skills Give Analysts Career Edge

There’s gold in those big data clouds. Corporations, non-profits and the public sector seem sure it’s there somewhere. But for business analysts panning through floods of business intelligence, distilling actionable information remains a challenge.big data becoming more accessible to business analysts

“It used to be PCs and smartphones; now you have tablets and sensors and cars spinning out all kinds of telemetry data, and all kinds of machines and products and services becoming digital products. Within all of those devices, you have a thousand times more applications,” said technology pioneer Michael Dell in a recent interview. “If you look at companies today, most of them are not very good at using the data they have to make better decisions in real-time.

How are business analysts helping companies reach better, data-driven decisions?

Here are a few thoughts from a McKinsey Global Institute study, Getting Big Impact from Big Data (McKinsey Quarterly, January 2015) :

• New technologies help produce more usable results
The emergence new software and service providers is helping users reach business-focused objectives in areas like logistics, risk management, pricing and personnel management.

Easier-to-implement tools have improved adoption by business analysts
New self-services analytics tools are building end-user confidence and overcoming distrust. Without needing to know a single line of coding, front-line users of new technology tools are linking data from multiples sources (including external ones) and applying predictive analytics to support decision making at companies like American Express, Proctor & Gamble and Walmart.

Confidence increases use of data analytics
Hand-on experience guided by experts in the early go-rounds helps people grow accustomed to using data. That confidence can increase the scale and scope of data-informed problem solving and decision support.

McKinsey concludes: As technology improves, it’s becoming much easier to automate processes and apply data-driven decision making.  And employers are becoming increasingly reliant on business analysts with big data skill sets.

To take advantage of the growing career opportunities for business analysts and data managers, George Mason offers an MBA in Business Analytics. The degree incorporates advanced coursework in using  data mining tools, marketing analytics and fraud examination. Learn more at

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Janet Palmisano

Janet Palmisano is a member of the Recruiting and Admissions team at the George Mason University School of Business.

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