Why Finance Needs a Business Analyst & What to Look For
Finance teams are under new pressures to deliver information beyond the balance sheet. As the keeper of the money, they are involved in every department and their responsibilities are directly correlated to company performance. As companies need to focus on optimizing their performance, it means spending dollars more wisely which comes from a balance of money-in and money-out. This puts the finance team front and center when a business decision needs to be made.
Before a company can optimize for success, they need to know what success means. How does the marketing team know whether they should re-up their sponsorship for an event? How can sales determine whether those client dinners are working? It all boils down to tracing revenue backwards – understanding both the source of revenue and what has influence over it. Before finance can give input on a business decision, they have to know the historical data and understand the implications of a yes or no.
When tracking the flow of money through the business, it quickly becomes obvious that the challenge lies in where and how data is stored. There is the marketing automation system, the CRM, proprietary databases, payment processors… the list goes on. And the truth is, they are all (usually) necessary because they each tell a very unique piece of the story. The tricky part is bringing together all of the data points to tell a meaningful story and base decisions off of.
New Secret Weapon
It’s becoming more commonplace for finance teams to be responsible for creating this “big picture” to tell the revenue story so that they can give input on how money should be spent across the company. Their new secret weapon comes in the form of a business analyst. Adding this role to their team helps complete the circle of collecting, analyzing and telling the data’s story.
The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) describes the role of Business Analyst as “a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals.”
What to look for in a Business Analyst
Beyond the typical qualities, skills and characteristics your company looks for when hiring, there are a few traits to look for when adding a business analyst to your team.
- Must love numbers and data points – if they don’t geek out over creating ratios and finding trends, the job will get old really fast. More than just being good at numbers and analyzing, look for a big goofy grin on their face while they are explaining a correlation they made or a process they built.
- Know a little bit about a lot of things – this job will span more than finance data, so look for someone who has knowledge of other areas of the business. Do they know what a sales cycle looks like? Or a marketing funnel? They won’t be able to tell the story of the data if they don’t know what they should be looking for and what to expect.
- Technically inclined – It helps to find someone that can quickly learn new software. Knowing how to pull data from it, as well as the ability of what data it can track is a huge benefit. If they have the skill set to run MySQL queries, even better! This will increase the amount of data they can get their hands on and what they can do with it.
- Storyteller extraordinaire – Don’t mistake this for someone that can spin a tale or has a vivid imagination. You want to look for someone who’s good at explaining something technical or complicated in a way that anyone in the business could understand. One of the most important parts of their job is explaining why the data is meaningful and drawing conclusions from it. Being able to effectively communicate is a must.