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6 Qualities of an Effective Business Analyst

When you’re looking to evaluate a website, you need to understand the data behind what users are viewing and clicking. A web business analyst can identify strengths and areas for improvement and can relay useful information to the client.

There are 6 qualities that an effective web business analyst should have:

  • Knowledge of statistical concepts
  • Programming knowledge
  • Effective communication skills
  • Ability to make insights from data
  • Inclination to be detail-oriented
  • Desire to go above and beyond

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1. Knowledge of statistical concepts

A business analyst doesn’t need to be an expert of every single statistical method. How many people do you know who can thoroughly explain how to implement a Naive Bayesian classification on a dataset? Unless you have a degree in statistics, probably not that many.

Just understanding general concepts can go a long way. For example, if an analyst is examining website data, and one of the pages receives 20 views per day, it can be assumed that results of an A/B test on that page won’t be significant after just one day. In order to determine the duration of your test, they would need to take into account the number of variations, conversion rate, daily traffic volumes, the minimum detectable effect (% lift), and the level of statistical significance that you would like to achieve. From here, they can calculate the necessary sample size and how long it would take to reach that sample size.

The most important topics that a web business analyst should understand are:

  • Sample size
  • Confidence intervals (90% vs. 95%)
  • Statistical significance
  • Mean, median, mode
  • Normal distribution
  • A/B/n testing
  • Multivariate testing
  • Statistical assumptions

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2. Programming knowledge

An effective analyst does not have to have any programming experience, to be honest. However, it is certainly a plus. If your business analyst is a programming expert, you should probably ask them why they’re a business analyst and not a programmer.

Even though I come from a computer science background, I will be the first to admit that I’m certainly no programming expert. I have had many programming classes, primarily in Java and JavaScript, but I quickly learned that not everyone uses those languages. However, having this background has helped me develop a mindset of adaptability. I have been able to learn PHP and Python relatively quickly for programming purposes, as well as R for data manipulation and running statistical models.

Understanding technical concepts is beneficial to a web business analyst. If they give any requests to developers to implement on a website, they can test it before a code deployment to ensure that it was implemented correctly and will result in accurate reporting and analyzing after the deployment. In addition, if they come across a problem and have to talk to developers, it helps to recognize some of the terms to follow what the developers are explaining. If the analyst then turns around and gives the exact same explanation to the client (who might not have any technical experience), the client probably won’t understand what the analyst is talking about. An effective business analyst will come up with an alternative explanation to relay the information in a more comprehensible way to someone who isn’t as technologically savvy.

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3. Effective communication skills

This is a quality where excellence is necessary. Even if digging into data is the analyst’s forté, it does the client no good if they can’t explain their findings. They must also be comfortable speaking to multiple people and being confident with their work. Being on a phone call and quietly sitting there when asked a question isn’t going to fly as an analyst. They key to gaining trust from a client is being able to explain things thoroughly and accurately, as well as being able to back up the findings.

Most people might not think about this, but visualizations can actually be a form of communication, too. Clients love visualizations. Even though a spreadsheet of data might contain a lot of information, the client probably won’t want to go through it and see what’s there - that’s why they hired a business analyst! Giving the client a high-level view of the analyst’s findings will help them make better decisions for the company. Of course, the analyst should always be able to go in-depth about their findings if the client has any questions about the overview.

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4. Ability to make insights from data

Running analyses of data may be easy, but it is what comes from the data that counts; it’s not only looking at “what,” but also “why.” On a website, if there is an average conversion rate of 60% one week, and the next week it drops to 40%, the first question should be, “why?” This is where understanding the website comes into play. Does it have to do with the flow of pages? Is there a problem with the design? Were there any changes to the page recently? Was there an A/B test running? Was there an ineffective campaign driving traffic to the site/page?

There is a big difference between reporting and analyzing. You can train almost anyone to download numbers, dump them into an Excel spreadsheet, attach it to an email, and click “send.” A business analyst needs to be able to pinpoint any suspicious data, as well as make insights from the data they gathered.

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5. Inclination to be detail-oriented

Some people might tell you that you’re nitpicky, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I am constantly being called the “grammar police” because I am quick to point out spelling or grammatical errors. However, I don’t take offense to it because I know that just means I’m detail-oriented, and I don’t settle for “good enough.” I am able to use this characteristic in a positive way by applying it to my job. Being obsessed with details makes a great analyst.

A business analyst needs to be able to pinpoint problem areas. This might mean finding that one outlier that is throwing everything else off. Sometimes (actually, most of the time) it is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It might take looking over something ten times before spotting anything noteworthy in the data. It certainly takes patience. Also, double-checking calculations is crucial to an analyst’s job. Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s better to catch that mistake before sending it on to a client.

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6. Desire to go above and beyond

A good business analyst completes what the client asks of them. A great business analyst does what the client doesn’t (but should) ask. However, they should be careful not to waste the client’s money and their own time by doing something the client doesn’t need; that could lead to an unhappy client. It is important to know the client well enough to be able to determine what data is in their best interest. Sometimes an analyst has to think of what the client needs, even though they may not know what they need.

It's okay to be picky when it comes to searching for the right web business analyst. Look for these qualities, and just remember to keep your client's needs in mind.

Ashley Turnbull
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