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What Does a Business Intelligence Analyst Do?

Business Intelligence is a distinct Intelligence discipline revolving around data analysis and organisation optimisation. Business Intelligence Analysts use multiple data processing and visualisation tools to gain insights.

What is Business Intelligence?

Business Intelligence (BI) is the process of collecting, storing, and analysing data for business purposes. This, of course, varies depending on the needs of any given Business Intelligence task. However, the discipline involves optimising business performance, identifying growth areas, and understanding an organisation’s customer base in more detail. Ultimately, Business Intelligence comprises all forms of data analytics based on business requirements.

Business Intelligence
(Img; Business Intelligence Analyst; via Bing)

What does a Business Intelligence Analyst do?

The discipline of Business Intelligence is summarising a large amount and variety of data into actionable insights for an organisation. This is to support the decision-making of an organisation and ultimately drive business performance.

Whilst Business Intelligence differs from some forms of traditional Intelligence Analysis, the broad concepts overlap. Therefore, Business Intelligence will follow a form of the Intelligence Cycle:

  1. Direction – Deciding the focus and requirements of the Intelligence product. Within Business Intelligence, this is decided by the organisation based on its needs.
  2. Collection – The collection of raw information. Within Business Intelligence, this is done by the Business Intelligence Analyst or through system automation.
  3. Processing – The analysis of the collected information in order to create a tangible, usable product per the consumer’s requirements. Within Business Intelligence, this is done by the Business Intelligence Analyst.
  4. Dissemination – The distribution of the Intelligence product to the consumer. The analyst feeds back the insights gained through the collection and processing stages to the business.

Naturally, as Business Intelligence Analysts gain insights and organisations adapt because of this insight, the aims of future tasks change. Therefore, Business Intelligence is a constant cycle, much like the traditional Intelligence Cycle.

BI Technology Shift

However, in recent years, Business Intelligence technology has developed to allow more system automation and real-time data insights. Therefore, far more businesses are moving away from the Linear Workflows of the traditional Intelligence Cycle towards a more modern approach:

  • Data access
  • Discovery
  • Exploration
  • Information Sharing
Business Intelligence Analyst
(Img; The Modern Business Intelligence Cycle; via Tableau)

Therefore, modern Business Intelligence encompasses understanding the needs of the businesses and building valuable and dynamic tools other members of the team can use and explore themselves. Similarly, flexibility is required more than ever with creating Business Intelligence products, and gone are the days of static reporting.

There is still a cycle based on information gathering, processing, and feedback; however, businesses desire dynamic reporting that can allow other business members to self-serve and explore themselves.

A Business Intelligence Analyst’s Toolkit

As part of this varied and rapidly changing role, analysts must use several data processing and visualisation tools to gain insights.

Business Intelligence Analysts can aid data-driven decisions for an organisation based on the outcome of their research. As a result, an analyst must be proficient in a variety of data processing and visualising applications, such as:

  • SQL
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Tableau

Whilst not required, employers are more commonly looking for computer science skills from Business Intelligence Analysts, such as:

  • Python
  • R
  • C#

This is alongside any other analytical skills, such as critical thinking, adaptability, and communication skills.

Becoming a Business Intelligence Analyst

As a result of the above skillset, many BI Analysts come from STEM educational backgrounds, such as Computer Science, Mathematics, and Sciences. However, these skills can be self-taught outside of formal academic contexts.

Business Intelligence Analysts are required across most industries. Consequently, they will gain industry-specific knowledge and monitor field developments as part of their work.

(Graphic; Graph of Industries employing business Intelligence Analysts; data via US Bureau of Labour)

Business Intelligence is a growing profession across all industries worldwide, because businesses will always need to improve efficiency and identify trends. Therefore, it is projected that the number of Business Intelligence Analysts required in the US will grow by 11% by 2029.

United States

Salary insights created in 2020 suggest that starting salaries for Business Intelligence Analysts in the US start at US$50,000, rising to up to US$120,000 depending on experience and employment in location. The US Bureau of Labour Statistics states that the median salary across the country was US$87,660 as of May 2021.

(Img; US Business Intelligence Analyst Salary Ranges, 2020; via Techtarget)

United Kingdom

Estimates for salaries in the UK are generally lower than that of the US. The median salary for this position in the UK is between GBP£40,000 and £50,000. Starting salaries are around GBP£30,000, though can rise to £70,000+ with professional experience.

Summary

As a numeric discipline, Business Analysis is centred on deriving actionable insights from a large amount of varied data. In addition, the role is varied, depending on the specific business needs and goals. As a result, a Business Intelligence Analyst must be flexible and able to adapt to the aims of the organisation and comfortable using data to do this.

Author

Abbi Clark

Abbi is a graduate in Chinese Studies from the University of Nottingham, specialising in Asian politics and International Relations. She is currently studying MA Intelligence & Security Studies at Brunel University London. Her research interests focus on geopolitics and modern defense issues.

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