Like many buzzwords that arise at the interface between business and technology, the term “Business Intelligence” (BI) is often misunderstood. In short, it refers to the ability and practice to extract insights from data to realize new goals, strategies, trends and values. A business intelligence analyst, collaborating with a network of other knowledge workers (e.g. data stewards and data management specialists) contributes to a company’s success.
Business intelligence explained
Business intelligence is understood as the perspectives that are gained from the analysis of the business information of companies. Because this data can be spread across many locations and departments, business intelligence is a hybrid of analysis and mining that can give management the tools they need to make informed decisions that might not otherwise be obvious.
Today’s data-driven businesses are growing at an unprecedented pace, often in unpredictable ways. For this reason, one might think that business intelligence should be mostly an automated affair – even the domain of AI. However, algorithms and automation alone cannot harness the creative connections and nuanced insights required in this space. Although IT is obviously an important part of the equation, business intelligence requires human intelligence .
Curious about what it takes to become a business intelligence analyst? Read on to learn what skills and education you’ll need, and what responsibilities you’ll take on as you embark on this career path.
What is a Business Intelligence Analyst?
As is common in data-centric professions, a business intelligence analyst (BIA) must take on many responsibilities and have skills that cut across multiple domains. Nonetheless, the core of the job is to produce periodic reports that summarize a company’s up-to-date datasets in terms of parallel financial reports and up-to-date market information.
Typically, these reports convincingly present the key trends in an identified market that could impact a company’s goals and actionable items on its agenda, presented as a function of the various data assets available to the company.
Although a business intelligence analyst is much more than a glorified office assistant, the job is best understood as a support role for executive decision makers. A BIA must provide carefully informed analytical insights that reflect the current realities of both the company and the markets concerned. Ultimately, the main results of the analyst’s work are strengthening the company’s position in the market, optimizing employee efficiency, increasing overall productivity and even improving performance at the customer experience level.
The business intelligence analyst profession is a relatively new but fast-growing profession: Forbes recently ranked the BIA as one of the most in-demand positions in the larger STEM market.
Because there is a demand for BI expertise in so many industries — healthcare and medical, insurance, finance, e-commerce — professionals working in the US can expect to earn around $80,000 per year, and even higher in particularly tech- heavy ones states).
What Skills Does a Business Intelligence Analyst Have? s need?
As the job title would suggest, the lion’s share of a business intelligence analyst’s skill set is processing data. They must master data at every level, including organization, storage, mining big data , and analysis—all with a keen and responsive eye for identifying key performance indicators and business-critical priorities in an organization’s data assets.
Beyond the data, a top-notch BIA will have some proficiency in tools specific to BI, programming languages, and systems analysis.
Data and technology know-how might strengthen the position, but without a range of communication skills to translate data insights into actionable steps, it’s nothing. This requires critical thinking and the ability to create presentations that address stakeholder needs in easy-to-understand language and data visualizations.
Typical Skills Required for Business Intelligence Analysts:
- Extensive software knowledge in the areas of user interface, database management, enterprise resource management (knowledge of Python, R, C#, Hadoop and SQL)
- Timely and persuasive presentation and reporting (mastery of PowerPoint and business functions of Zoom are obvious advantages)
- High-level background knowledge of integrating software and programs with multiple tiers of data services
- A knack for problem solving in both technical and interpersonal contexts; at least five years of experience teaching analytical and critical thinking skills in a professional setting
- Ability to build rapport with both individuals in management and cross-departmental teams (particularly when implementing new software and technology that may result from BI recommendations)
BI roles and responsibilities
As much as business intelligence can be about human interaction, many of an analyst’s jobs are discrete, most notably the authoring processes for data manipulation and collection. From there, expect reports and more reports, including analytics reports that can be customized to stakeholder needs and highlight the most department-relevant findings.
A business intelligence analyst must also play an active role in the various lifecycles of data moving throughout the organization. Finally, data reporting is based on regular monitoring of how data is collected, consulting user testimonials, third-party product summaries, and even public records.
For this reason, a BIA may wish to continuously track emerging technology or emerging market trends that could potentially offer efficiencies or value within the industry and their specific business.
Working with data governance and management specialists, a BIA must oversee the integrity, security and location of data. This should be done in the organization’s computer database and can be done in conjunction with new operational protocols that make the most of the database as it evolves along with updates and unique program features. Finally, BIAs benefit from taking a step back in meta-analysis and developing new methods that improve the analysis at each of the steps outlined above.
Required education and training
There are several ways to prepare for a career in business intelligence. Most obviously, you can go straight to a bachelor’s degree in business intelligence, which includes a study of analytics with elements of marketing, technology, and management.
Alternatively, a beginner in this field may want to take a more indirect approach and earn a BA in a related field, such as computer science, accounting, finance, management, or business administration.
A bachelor’s degree is enough to open the door to most entry-level business intelligence positions, but a master’s degree in a broader discipline like business analytics can make all the difference and land more competitive elite jobs.
Image used under license from Shutterstock.com