Data is changing the way companies do business. From tech giants to meal delivery services, organizations are harnessing the power of analytics to boost performance and streamline operations.

According to McKinsey, one of the keys to success for high-performing firms is cultivating a culture wherein employees consistently use business analytics as a basis for decision-making. Fostering this kind of environment has been shown to not only increase the likelihood of companies reaching their data objectives, but report revenue growth of at least 10 percent in the past three years.

In addition, research by Indeed shows the demand for professionals skilled in data science has skyrocketed since 2013, with the number of job postings more than tripling.

If you want to hone your analytical skills and help your organization thrive, there are several ways you can develop a data mindset—even if you don’t have a business background. Here are four ways you can learn business analytics.

How to Learn Business Analytics

1. Earn an MBA


Furthering your education by earning a graduate degree, such as an MBA, can be one way to gain the data skills needed to solve complex business challenges.

A recent study by Kaplan Test Prep found that MBA programs in the US are increasingly integrating data science courses into their curriculum as more companies seek to hire graduates with strong analytical and technical skills.

Through the intensive coursework of business school, you can learn how to form and test hypotheses, analyze relationships between variables, and communicate statistical results to colleagues.

Paired with the leadership and management courses that form the foundation of many MBA programs, the business analytics knowledge you acquire in the classroom can enable you to become a more capable, data-driven decision-maker.

Related: Considering Earning An MBA? 5 Tips to Help You Prepare

2. Enroll in an Online Business Analytics Course


If a full-time graduate program isn’t the right fit for you, consider enrolling in an online business analytics course, such as the one offered by Harvard Business School Online. For many working professionals, taking an online class is a flexible, cost-effective means of attaining skills that can lead to career advancement. In fact, a third of all students now take at least one online course.

The host of benefits offered by an online educational experience include:

  • Learning on your own time while juggling life’s other demands
  • The opportunity to remotely connect with peers from around the world
  • The chance to dive deeper into course content by pausing and rewinding video lectures and revisiting previous modules

For entrepreneur Yeffei Jin, a past participant in our online Credential of Readiness (CORe) program, taking Business Analytics provided concrete skills he applied in his daily work.

“I am applying concepts from the Business Analytics course in my current venture,” Jin says. “From designing surveys to hypothesis testing, every aspect of data collection and analysis informs our customer validation process. Especially in entrepreneurship, predictive analytics and data-driven decision-making have become increasingly vital to growth and sustainability.”

3. Gain Hands-On Experience


Whether you acquire business analytics knowledge in a physical classroom or online, look for opportunities in your workplace to take initiative and put the concepts you’ve learned into practice

Perhaps your team needs someone to spearhead an A/B test to gauge the effectiveness of a website update, or your manager needs help creating data visualizations for an important meeting with stakeholders. Both of these would be prime situations to flex your data skills.

In the case of Pankaj Prashant, an engineer in the mining industry and a former CORe participant, the lessons learned in Business Analytics were instrumental in helping his company save money.

“I was able to use business analytics when a project on truck optimization for my site came up while I was enrolled in the course,” Prashant says. “I applied the statistical concepts I learned during the course to create an optimizer tool for truck usage and scheduling at the mine. This tool resulted in significant cost savings, which was highly valued by the site management team.”

Credential of Readiness (CORe) - Master the fundamentals of business. Learn more.

4. Leverage Your Network


Your professional network can be a powerful resource for attaining new skills. According to a recent survey by LinkedIn, nearly 80 percent of professionals said they consider networking to be vital to career success.

To leverage your network, identify contacts who are adept at performing essential business analytics processes, such as conducting a cost-benefit analysis, and ask them to share their knowledge and offer guidance on how you can broaden your data expertise.

By taking advantage of your professional relationships, you can expand your skill set and cultivate connections that potentially lead to new and exciting career opportunities.

Developing Your Business Analytics Skills

An understanding of business analytics can be useful in any industry. By attaining this fundamental business skill through continuing your education or gaining firsthand experience, you can become a more effective decision-maker and achieve professional growth while driving your company’s success.

Do you want to become a key contributor to business discussions and decision-making at your organization? Explore our online CORe program, and learn how you can take your career to the next level by furthering your knowledge of business analytics, economics, and financial accounting.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in North Carolina, where he held roles in content writing and social media. He has a background in video production, and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, cycling, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.