SQL for Business Analysts

By Nirma De Silva

As a Business Analyst, you might have the idea instilled in your mind that SQL is only for developers but not your cup of tea. Nevertheless, SQL has become an essential skill to master, for enhancing data analysis skills, to sustain the transformation of business requirements into insightful business decisions.

Moreover, living in a data-driven reality, an extra touch of learning SQL will always become handy in further enhancement of your analytical competencies. A dig into what SQL is, Basics of SQL and how it can affect the usual routine of a BA is discussed.

What is “SQL”?

SQL, termed as “Structured Query Language”, is a programming language for storing, retrieving and manipulating data stored in a relational database.

Let us break down into the definition of a relational database;

  1. An intersection of an attribute(column) and a tuple(row) forms a data entry.
  2. A collection of data entries forms a database table.
  3. A collection of tables forms a database.
  4. A collection of tables with organized data points with defined relations forms a relational database.

Thus, some of the most popular Relational Database Management systems worth knowing are MS SQL Server, IBM DB2, Oracle, MySQL, and Microsoft Access. All these applications use the language “SQL” to perform extraction, manipulation, and analysis of data.

Why is SQL a required BA skill?

  • “Is SQL required for a BA?”, “How much of SQL should a BA know?”, “Is it a must to recall SQL syntax all the time?” are few of the most blazing questions that BA professionals encounter in their work life.
  • Data fluency grows to be increasingly important in the job role for a BA as, majority of organizations at present are based on data driven processes and projects. SQL, being the most popular database manipulation language, has now evolved to become a fundamental tool in the pool of analytical skills for a BA. Unlike a data engineer, it is not mandatory for a BA to train on database administration, but it is necessary to learn the basic functions of SQL to access, retrieve and analyze data.
  • How SQL helps a BA to achieve business goals?

SQL is a great support for businesses relying entirely on data to run their functions smoothly and efficiently. For a BA, SQL is a great asset in conducting analysis to make strategic decisions to cater stakeholder requirements, resulting in potential business growth. SQL being based on enabling the creation of databases to serve the needs of the business domain, aids in improving production efficiency while reducing unnecessary costs.

Thereby, a BA gets to resolve complex business problems with SQL, as it is a versatile and adaptable programming language.

A walk into SQL Commands

SQL commands are defined as a set of instructions used in communicating to perform certain tasks, functions and data in the database

SQL commands can be classified under 5 main categories, namely;

  1. Data Definition Language (DDL): commands describing database schema.
  2. Data Query Language (DQL): commands used in querying data from database.
  3. Data Manipulation Language (DML): commands used in altering information stored inside a database.
  4. Data Control Language (DCL): commands used in interacting with the database access rights and privileges.
  5. Transaction Control Language (TCL): commands used in handling database transactions.

A glimpse to basics

If you are a beginner, let me note down few of the basic SQL commands and syntax you need to know;

  1. SELECT Statement

SELECT column_name1, column_name2
FROM table_name
WHERE condition

SELECT-> mention the data table column names you need to retrieve data of.
FROM-> mention the data table name to retrieve data from.
WHERE->mention the filtering options you need to capture data of.

2. GROUP BY Statement

SELECT column_name1, column_name2
FROM table_name
GROUP BY column_name1

GROUP BY -> mentions on which to group the rows based on the values of a column.

3. ORDER BY Statement

SELECT column_name1, column_name2
FROM table_name
ORDER BY column_name1 ASC/DESC

ORDER BY -> mentions on which to sort the rows based on the values of one or more columns.
ASC -> sorts the rows in ascending order.
DESC->sorts the rows in descending order.

Similarly, you can adjust your SQL queries in the way you require to handle the database operations by the set available SQL commands/statements.

Any quick and effective guide for learning?

In my opinion, the best tip is to have regular hands-on practice to improve your skills. Most significant is to be grasping the SQL Basics, known as SQL commands, to attend to your daily data-oriented tasks. A variety of interactive online platforms allows you to experience the hands-on environment to experiment with the language, without the hassle of worrying on da database setup, as they have a configured local setup to help you with your practice.

One of the popular live SQL editor platforms: https://www.tutorialspoint.com/execute_sql_online.php

If you interested in self learning:

Ending Notes

In summary, more than a tool, SQL is fundamental component that enables business analysts to retrieve, analyze, and extract insightful information from complex datasets. Business analysts become vital players in decision-making and the success of their organizations as a result of their proficiency with SQL, which is becoming increasingly important as businesses continue to change.

Business analysts may access a plethora of data-driven opportunities with SQL, which guarantees the accuracy and actionability of their studies and fosters innovation and expansion inside their companies.

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