Businesses have more access to data than ever before. As a result, an organization’s BI analyst is an increasingly important role.
The proliferation of data is hardly surprising given recent technological advancements. Today, information flows freely through enterprises on a huge scale driven by faster broadband speeds and information transfer capabilities, not to mention the vast amount of data generated by the Internet of Things. This network of sensors, gadgets, networks, and devices generate millions of byte of data, all of which hold valuable information. To extract value from this information, businesses need to hire individuals with exceptional business acumen and data science expertise – otherwise known as a business intelligence analyst. This article outlines this specialist role and discusses the qualities of an outstanding BI analyst.
What is a business intelligence analyst?
Today, companies need to be able to harness vast volumes of data and leverage this intelligence to its fullest potential – and as you might expect, the demand for business intelligence analysts has risen in line with the proliferation of data. In essence, a BI analyst is tasked with extracting insights from big data. For instance, they will identify patterns in customer behavior; glitches in productivity output; or trends in quarterly financial results. Subsequently, they should be well placed to determine and quantify organizational strengths and weaknesses and advise C-levels on critical business decisions.
Equally, they may implement new data storage architecture or processing tools. However, the role of the business intelligence analyst is more comprehensive than technological assessments provided by senior IT managers; a BI analyst will closely consider how technological solutions and cultural changes will impact the business’s bottom line. The BI analyst has to be able to appraise and enhance an organization's technological and operational systems and consider how these help meet business development objectives.
In summary, BI analysts are critical to business decisions as they can generate a holistic overview of an organization informed by evidence. With this evidence, they play an important role in strategic thinking. Therefore, it is no surprise that there is a high demand for BI expertise across industries. Now, organizations from investment firms to healthcare trusts are employing business intelligence analysts to enhance financial and operational performance.
What qualifications does a business intelligence analyst need?
All business intelligence analysts will hold at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, computer science, or other science or technology-driven subject. This expertise is essential to the role and many business intelligence analysts will also have training experience in several analytic processes. These include SWOT and PESTEL analysis, as well as experience of technologies like SQL. Furthermore, they should have experience in management strategy and scenario planning.
To prove a broad range of experience, aspiring BI analysts should gain certification of relevant training. The benefits of these include professional recognition, professional development opportunities, and greater salary prospects. For example, BI analysts with official certifications have 16% higher salaries. However, when selecting training, ensure the program is in line with career goals. Often specific courses and training programs will have a slant towards a particular industry or sector.
Essential skills of a business intelligence analyst
Considering the role is so reliant on data, it is unsurprising that anyone who wishes to pursue a career in business intelligence will need robust analytical skills. These analytic capabilities need to be supported by strong technical skills and an aptitude for new technologies. However, a BI analyst’s skill set needs to extend beyond technology; they also need to have excellent communication skills, as much of the role hinges on explanation and visualization. For instance, a BI analyst needs to be able to clearly communicate their findings to both management and clients.
Beyond these core competencies, business intelligence analysts should have strong problem solving and team management skills. This is connected to the need for good communication skills; often, the BI analyst will be a crucial interlocutor between staff, management, and customers. Furthermore, as a company’s data analysis requirements grow, it is likely that BI analysts will have to work in teams to manage the workload.
Day-to-day tasks of a BI analyst
Data is central to a BI analyst’s daily activities. As a result, much of their day-to-day tasks will revolve around analyzing data to identify operational weaknesses and develop solutions. As such, a BI analyst is responsible for the following:
- Ensuring that data capture strategy is consistent with defined goals
- Maintaining databases and business intelligence tools
- Developing BI and data architecture strategy
- Understanding and communicating business goals
- Analyzing competition through related product, market, or share trends
- Presenting findings to C-levels
A business intelligence analyst is also responsible for analyzing market trends, ensuring the organization is in step with developments across their sector. Furthermore, these day-to-day analytic tasks will seek to streamline operations by determining where overheads can be reduced and efficiency enhanced. Depending on the industry, the BI analyst may also be responsible for developing BI solutions in line with the organization’s specific needs.
Business intelligence: An increasingly lucrative role
The principal role of a BI analyst is to facilitate vertical integration across an organization through technological and cultural solutions. It is their responsibility to communicate valuable information in order to support decision-making. If organizations orient their BI analyst role description around business insights, the BI analyst can work closely with senior IT staff, C-levels, and external service providers to continually drive business development. If management empowers the BI analyst to communicate across stakeholders, they are more likely to deliver value.
As data grows and demand for data analysts increases, it is that likely positions will become more competitive. As a result, organizations will be prepared to pay a higher premium for specialist BI analysis skills. Therefore, it is essential that those who want to transition to analysis roles ensure they have advanced skills and continually exploit opportunities for training. Subsequently, business intelligence is becoming an increasingly lucrative field, providing numerous exciting career opportunities for professionals with strong analytical minds.