Business analyst skills critical to career success


Business growth across Asia is driving demand for finance and accounting professionals. But that doesn’t mean you can afford to sit on your laurels and assume landing a great role will simply happen.

Some business analyst skills are more highly sought-after than others and developing your business analytics skillset can pay dividends.

In an increasingly globalised workplace, knowledge of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) is essential. However the growing importance of big data and the way it can be managed and used by companies is driving high demand in the market for accounting professionals with exceptional business analyst skills. 

Insights from business analytics used to be regarded as nice-to-have but not essential pieces of business intelligence.  That’s all changed. These days, the ability of finance and accounting professionals to lead the way with business analytics is critical to support strategic decisions.

Interestingly, over one in three business leaders across Asia acknowledge this need – a figure that rises to 44% of CFOs in Shanghai. The Robert Half Japan 2016 Salary Guide notes business analytics as the functional area most difficult to recruit suitably skilled candidates. It makes business analyst skills, such as business intelligence and data mining, something worth acquiring by aspiring accounting and finance professionals.

Download the Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide

As businesses become more reliant on their finance teams to deliver strategic advice, strong business analytics skills will become more important for finance professionals. Organisations with larger accounting systems may have specialised analytical software, such as MicroStrategy, IBM's Cognos Business Intelligence and Oracle’s Hyperion. Each of these advanced accounting tools harvest data with the aim of identifying opportunities to be pursued and problems to be solved.

Knowledge of business analytics can be the key for accounting and finance professionals in Asia to climbing the career ladder. Organisations need candidates with advanced business analyst skills, including:

  • Business intelligence. Business analytics requires a deep understanding of the systems used to gather information. This is putting pressure on finance professionals to hone their business intelligence skills, and even a basic understanding of how information systems are structured can make it easier to collaborate with IT teams and intelligence analysts.
  • Data mining. Turning raw data into actionable insights is at the core of business analytics. Data mining often requires strong mathematical skills, placing finance professionals with a background in statistics at an advantage.
  • Data-driven decision making. One of the key challenges of big data is knowing how to make decisions based on the available information. This sort of strategic responsibility is increasingly falling to finance departments. It means team members must be able to react quickly to new insights and use business analytics to assist stakeholders across the organisation understand their findings and make strategic decisions.

Sharpening your business analytics skills

Business analytics skills are crucial in today’s data-driven world, but they aren’t the only attributes in high demand.

The Robert Half Japan 2016 Salary Guide notes that along with excellent technical skills and knowledge of systems like Oracle and SAP, candidates with the CPA designation have an edge in the market. In an increasingly global commercial market, the ability to communicate with stakeholders in English can give candidates a considerable advantage.

If you’re already working full-time with little time to devote to honing your business analytics or other skills, your employer may be more willing to help. The serious shortage of talent with business analytics skills in Japan is seeing many companies work to develop the skills of their current employees. So speak to your manager about additional training and education opportunities they can provide. Or consider volunteering for projects that will help you gain business analytics and other skills. It could make the difference between success and failure in the future.

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