Business Analyst vs Data Analyst: Roles, Duties and Skills

Updated 21 May 2023

Data analysis is an in-demand field with two common career paths, namely in business analytics and data analytics. Business analysts focus on using data to solve specific business problems while data analysts are responsible for collecting, processing and analysing large datasets to identify patterns and insights. If you're interested in pursuing a career in this field, it helps to understand the differences and similarities between these two roles to decide which is better suited for you. In this article, we explain the differences between a business analyst vs a data analyst and discuss their roles and responsibilities.

Please note that none of the companies, organisations or institutions mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Why is it important to know the difference between a business analyst vs a data analyst?

Learning the difference between a business analyst vs a data analyst can help you choose which area to specialise in if you're considering a career in data analysis. While both positions involve working with data, they involve different skills, responsibilities and deliverables. For instance, applying for a job as a business analyst might be better suited if your passion lies in solving business problems.

Conversely, pursuing a career as a data analyst when you're passionate about working with large datasets can provide job satisfaction and fulfilment. By knowing the differences between these roles, you can make informed decisions about your career path, set appropriate expectations and develop the necessary skills to excel in your chosen profession.

What is a business analyst?

A business analyst works to understand and analyse business processes, identify areas for improvement and recommend solutions to meet business requirements. They use data analysis, stakeholder interviews and process mapping techniques to identify gaps in existing processes and propose changes to optimise performance. Business analysts help organisations improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase revenue by implementing data-driven solutions that align with the company's strategic objectives.

They work closely with the information technology (IT) department and its personnel and other subject matter experts to gather requirements, define project goals and monitor progress. Here are some of their general responsibilities:

  • analysing business processes, procedures and systems

  • conducting interviews to gather requirements

  • creating and maintaining documentation like reports, requirements and specifications

  • using business intelligence and analytics tools to identify trends and patterns

  • developing business cases and proposals to support proposed solutions

  • collaborating with cross-functional teams to define project goals and ensure alignment with business objectives

  • performing quality assurance activities to ensure solutions meet requirements

  • supporting activities to successfully implement proposed solutions

Find business analyst jobs

Related: What Does a Business Analyst Do?

What is a data analyst?

A data analyst collects, processes and performs statistical analyses on large and complex data sets to identify patterns, trends and insights. They use a variety of tools and techniques to clean and transform raw data into usable formats for analysis, which help organisations make data-driven decisions and achieve business objectives. Data analysts work with other internal teams to understand business problems and define data requirements. They're responsible for identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) and developing reports and visualisations to communicate data insights to business users.

Some typical job responsibilities of a data analyst include:

  • collecting, cleaning and processing large and complex data sets from various sources

  • conducting data analysis to identify patterns, trends and anomalies

  • developing statistical models and algorithms to analyse and interpret data

  • creating data visualisations, dashboards and reports to communicate findings and insights to business users

  • collaborating with internal teams to understand business problems and define data requirements

  • identifying and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure and improve business performance

  • staying up-to-date with emerging trends and technologies in data analysis and applying them to improve business processes and outcomes

Find data analyst jobs

Related: What Does a Data Analyst Do? Definition and Job Duties

Key differences between a business analyst vs a data analyst

Learn the key differences between a business analyst vs a data analyst to evaluate which is a suitable career path:

Skill level and technical ability

Business analysts have a strong understanding of business processes and project management to gather requirements and work with IT staff to understand business goals and objectives. While some business analysts may have technical expertise in areas such as database design, programming or software development, it's not always required for the role.

Conversely, data analysts often require a high level of technical ability and skill in areas such as programming, statistics and data modelling. They have expertise in tools and languages such as Python and SQL and are experienced with data manipulation and analysis techniques. In addition, data analysts can clean and prepare large and complex data sets for analysis and communicate their findings to both technical and non-technical audiences.

Related: What Are Some Great Data Analyst Skills? Plus Job Duties

Scope of work

Business analysts focus on understanding and improving business processes by identifying business requirements and ensuring that projects are aligned with strategic goals. They work closely with stakeholders across different departments to gather and analyse information, document business goals and develop solutions to address business problems. Business analysts may occasionally work on process improvement initiatives such as change management and business transformation projects.

In contrast, data analysts focus on analysing and interpreting data to provide insights and recommendations that support business decisions. They work with large and complex data sets to identify patterns, trends and anomalies and develop statistical models and algorithms to explain and predict data behaviour. Data analysts also collaborate with business personnel to identify data requirements and create dashboards and visualisations to communicate insights that can be better understood by business users.

Related: 7 Data Collection Methods and Examples (Plus Data Types)


Depending on the specific role and industry, some employers may require a combination of business and technical skills for both business analysts and data analysts. For business analysts, employers generally prefer candidates to have a degree in business administration, management, finance or a related field. This assures the organisation that you're capable of understanding business processes, workflows and management principles.

Alternatively, data analysts typically hold degrees in mathematics, statistics or computer science. Earning such qualifications ensures that data analysts have a strong foundation in data analysis and statistical modelling techniques, including experience with data visualisations tools and programming languages.


Certifications are important for both business analysts and data analysts as they demonstrate a level of knowledge and expertise in each respective field. It can help business analysts to pursue certifications in business management that can help validate their business analysis skills and understanding of specific industries or domains, including any relevant business processes and technologies. For data analysts, having certifications in data analysis or related fields such as Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) or SAS Certified Data Scientist can help demonstrate their domain expertise or credibility in specific programming languages.

Related: Business Analyst Career Path (Requirements and Roles)

Tools and software

Business analysts typically use tools like process mapping and modelling software, project management software and customer relationship management (CRM) software to help them analyse and improve business processes and manage projects. Conversely, data analysts use a range of tools and technologies for collecting, analysing and visualising data such as statistical software like R or Python, databases like SQL or Oracle and data visualisation tools like Tableau or Power BI. While each role may use different technologies, it's important for individuals in both fields to stay up-to-date on the latest tools and technologies to stay competitive in their jobs.

Skill similarities between a business analyst vs a data analyst

It can help to understand the skill similarities between a business analyst vs a data analyst to help decide your specialisation. Here are the skills commonly used in both roles:

  • Problem-solving: Both roles require strong problem-solving skills to implement strategies that can solve complex business issues. Business analysts may use their problem-solving skills to help organisations improve their efficiency, reduce costs and increase profitability while data analysts use their problem-solving skills to uncover patterns and trends to uncover insights that can be used to improve decision-making.

  • Communication: Business analysts and data analysts both use their strong communication skills to relay complex information clearly and concisely to different users in the company. Business analysts collaborate with IT personnel and also present findings and recommendations to clients while data analysts use effective communication to convey valuable insights from data to non-technical users.

  • Analytical: Having strong analytical skills is critical for both data analysts and business analysts as they handle complex information to derive useful insights that can help the business. Business analysts use their analytical skills to identify inefficiencies in business processes or evaluate the effectiveness of existing systems while data analysts may use apply their analytical skills to clean and organise data and develop important data models to predict outcomes.

  • Attention to detail: Both data analysts and business analysts are meticulous in their work and pay close attention to small details while also considering the larger perspective. Business analysts use their attention to detail to analyse financial performance and processes and identify areas for improvement while data analysts identify errors in data sets and ensure the accuracy of their analysis.

  • Adaptability: Business and data analysts require a flexible mindset to adapt to changing business requirements, priorities and timelines. Business analysts may respond to changes in business strategy, shifting market conditions and evolving customer preferences while data analysts adapt to changes in data availability, new analytical tools and data sources.

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