digital business analyst dashboard example

What is a digital business analyst?

With the digital age come new roles and responsibilities. For business analysts, the hard skills are there — it’s a question of changing the working perspective from “inside-out” to “outside-in.” This means a shift in thinking that puts the customer at the center of design and product development.

So, the digital business analyst role helps a business develop improve processes to optimize the company’s digital presence and performance (better processes = improved presence and performance). In most cases, this means that he/she works on digital products and projects. The vision for digital BAs is to help companies make the shift from brick-and-mortar (physical) focus to digital focus, as that’s where the cash will be.

Let’s take a look at what this means in detail. But first, if you’re looking for a more general introduction to business analysis, sign up for a chance to get our handbook free below.

What does a digital business analyst do?

A digital business analyst leverages his/her knowledge of users’ digital abilities and experiences to build products that work for those users.

For example, imagine a tech team wants to build the next Uber competitor application. A traditional BA might perform requirement analysis and conclude that the “Request Uber” button be at the top of the screen. A digital business analyst, however, would know to put it at the bottom.

This is obviously a silly example, as almost anyone would know to place the request button low on the screen so user’s can tap easily with their thumbs, but it helps illustrate the role of the Digital BA. The reality is sightly more complicated.

There are two types of digital business analysts. The first is those that focus on digital strategy and business outcomes. The second are those that focus on technology skills themselves.

  1. Strategist Digital BA – focused on business outcomes
    • The economy is in a transitional phase, and many senior leaders are unsure of how to approach solving digital problems. That’s why the days when business analysts simply gathered requirements are over. Today, they have to help managers decide what to do from a strategic perspective. This alone requires a strategist mindset and knowledge of the newest technologies and trends. Digital moves faster than analogue.
  2. Specialist Digital BA – focused on the technical skills to reach those business outcomes
    • Robotic process automation – to be used in insurance claims filing
    • Data science modeling – to be used in identifying customer, user, or employee behavioral patterns
    • Performing cluster analysis with superviser machine learning – to be used in improving digital marketing


The digital business analyst role only makes sense in context. Most millennials are acutely aware of the need to switch to digital, yet only 18% of companies considered themselves paperless.1 So what’s happening?

The ubiquitous use of social media and press coverage of the technology industry, as well as the overwhelming dominance of internet exchanges, make it feel like the world has made the switch to digital. But this is simply not the case.

Many longstanding organizations are still deeply entrenched in analogue systems, and they lack the skills and knowledge at every level of the organization to make the switch. This is where digital business analysts can play a critical role.

A simple example of this was the New York Times’ and the Washington Post’s switches to digital. Today, they both offer a number of free articles each month, then up-sell customers who want to read more. But they weren’t always this way. In fact, the original strategy was to simply sell advertising.

Unfortunately, ads didn’t generate enough revenue to sustain the companies. They lost several months of revenue and a lot of traffic to competitor newspapers who immediately went to the subscription model.

A digital business analyst as the skills to help companies like these avoid such costly mistakes and perhaps to perform even better than companies can imagine.

Digital Business Analyst Skills

There are 8 competency groups that Digital BAs need to succeed: infuse customer empathy, envision the outcome, own the product (as opposed to project), practice value orientation, enable smart decisions, learn continually, and drive change & engagement.

In order to understand what a digital business analyst does, we need to know what his/her skills are. You’ll see that it’s quite insightful. The competency groups contain the following skills. An ✔️ means the skill falls into the competency group.

Infuse customer empathyEnvision the outcomeOwn the productPractice value orientationEnable smart decisionsLearn ContinuallyDrive change & engagement
Deep Observation✔️
Emotional Intelligence✔️
Cultural Sensitivity✔️
Change Tolerance✔️
Strategic Thinking✔️
Continuous Innovation Attitude✔️
Design Sense✔️
Big Picture Thinking✔️
Business Outcome Focus✔️✔️
Platform Thinking✔️
Critical Thinking✔️
Risk and Impact Awareness✔️
Logical Thinking✔️✔️
Data Intuition✔️✔️
Lateral Thinking✔️✔️
Technology Awareness✔️✔️
Organizational Design Knowledge✔️
Research Acumen✔️
Digital Business Analyst Skills Matrix2

Most of these skills are self-explanatory, but I will explain or give an example of each one so you walk away with a concrete idea of what they mean. Let’s use a customer journey through renting a car online to help guide us.

Skills: First half

  1. Deep Observation – paying acute attention to the landing page of the car rental website and how little changes in design affect user behavior
  2. Emotional Intelligence – understanding how colors, designs, and words can subtly affect the way a customers feels when landing on the website
  3. Cultural Sensitivity – always questioning whether your observations and intuitions might affect people of other cultures differently
  4. Change Tolerance – accepting that you will need to often change the website until it perfectly reflects what the customer wants at every step of the way
  5. Strategic Thinking – keeping in mind how every action you take affects the global image of the company, and how it compares to what current and potential competitors may do
  6. Continuous Innovation Attitude – always look for new technologies that could open new markets either directly or close to your field. An example is smart cars for short rentals in big cities
  7. Design Sense – a keen awareness of user needs in the structuring of the rental car website
  8. Big Picture Thinking – always taking a step back to ask whether what you’re doing supports the strategy
  9. Business Outcome Focus – always aiming to provide value to car renters in order to make shareholders more money
  10. Platform Thinking – ask how your product performs on a platform, and on which platform? Should it be placed on social media websites, or on your own?

Skills: Second Half

  1. Storytelling – car renters don’t buy a car. They buy an experience. Tell a story around your product to encourage that thinking.
  2. Critical Thinking – breaking ideas down into premises and conclusions, then challenging all of them
  3. Risk and Impact Awareness – you may have an innovative technology to implement on the car rental website, but it may also flop. What is chance this happens? And how bad would it be? Risk = impact * probability.
  4. Logical Thinking – as the famous logical saying goes: “All dogs have skin. Joey is a dog. So Joey has skin.” Think only in ultimate truths and eliminate ambiguous statements.
  5. Data Intuition – build up your intuition of data when you see graphs and charts. This will help make decisions. Imagine customers on the car rental website stop buying when you decrease the price of one rental, but they buy more when you increase it. Ask why? This intuitively does not make sense, so what is another explanation? Check out Intro to Data Analysis.
  6. Lateral Thinking – don’t try to knock the wall down. Go around it.
  7. Technology Awareness – you need to be fluent in multiple coding languages and understand the industry jargon in order to perform as a digital business analyst
  8. Organizational Design Knowledge – understand how the architecture of your products reflects the architecture of your organization, and what shortcoming that may insight
  9. Research Acumen – understand how to perform research in order to find answers to questions that ultimately better serve your customers

What makes a digital business analyst different from a traditional business analyst?

The International Institue of Business Analysis (IIBA) writes, “In the digital context, BA professionals must anticipate the future needs of the customer, obsess over creating value for them, and possess the competencies to do so. That is what differentiates digital business analysis from traditional business analysis.”2

In other words, due to the quickly-changing world of digital technologies, digital business analysts must constantly look to the future. They must think more like strategists than traditional business analysts.

Digital Business Analyst vs Digital Marketer

It should be clear now what a digital analyst is and what he/she does. However, it’s useful to compare them to digital marketers. The two share many common denominators. Because they are both obsessed with their company’s digital presence, it appears from the outside that the two are the same.

But they are not the same. Digital marketers are more concerned with the specifics of how to attack current and potential customers through digital channels. While digital business analysts do the same, they will ask broader questions about how attacking those customers reflects on the company’s internal processes. They ask how that attack affects long term strategy.

While digital marketers generate revenues immediately, digital business analysts determine if that process is sustainable. Digital BAs are thus a closer friend of management in established firms. On the other hand, digital marketers are much more valuable in turnaround situations where companies need cash fast, or in startups.

Which is better for a career, digital business analyst or digital marketer?

If you want to work in startups, the ability to generate revenue quickly is invaluable. You should pursue digital marketing. But if you want to help companies make the shift to digital — or help startups scale once they have traction — then a digital BA role is better for you.

  1. according to in 2013 []
  2. Essential Competencies White paper [] []

About the Author


Noah is the founder & Editor-in-Chief at AnalystAnswers. He is a transatlantic professional and entrepreneur with 5+ years of corporate finance and data analytics experience, as well as 3+ years in consumer financial products and business software. He started AnalystAnswers to provide aspiring professionals with accessible explanations of otherwise dense finance and data concepts. Noah believes everyone can benefit from an analytical mindset in growing digital world. When he's not busy at work, Noah likes to explore new European cities, exercise, and spend time with friends and family.


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