Data is the lifeblood of any business today, and every organization needs a plan in place for how it handles these precious assets. Complex big data analytics projects that rely on the advanced skills of dedicated data scientists may be the ultimate goal for many firms, but even if you lack the skills or resources to put such programs in place, being able to analyze data, identify trends and patterns and apply insight to your decision-making is an activity no company can be without.
But what do you need to make business intelligence (BI) programs a success? While having the right technical tools for the gathering, management and processing of this data is a must, you also need to consider the make-up of your team.
It's important that you have a good range of skills among the department - and not all of these will be highly technical requirements. Here are six key talents that no BI strategy can afford to be without.
1. Data analysis
Perhaps one of the more obvious skills for any BI professional - and definitely the most important - the ability to look at data coming in from multiple sources, interpret it and come to accurate conclusions is the most fundamental part of such a strategy. Unless you're specifically pursuing a big data strategy, you don't necessarily need qualified data scientists to see results. As long as they’re proficient in key tools and technologies, such as Tableau, SQL and even Excel, you'll be able to derive vital insight from your data.
2. Problem solving
Data analysis is only a small part of a successful BI operation. Problem-solving skills are another must-have for these departments, as this is what will help translate raw numbers into actionable insights that help address any issues and give the business direction for future decision-making. Being able to look at a situation, determine where issues lie, and what possible course of action to take is the key to answering many of the questions business stakeholders may ask your team.
3. Attention to detail
Individuals who can look at data and spot the smaller things others might miss are hugely valuable in BI. Detail-oriented professionals will be able to identify patterns that don’t stand out from the noise, which is something that will be critical as the amount of information gathered by businesses continues to grow. With very large sets of data to work with, being able to hone in on a specific point that could unlock value could be the difference between success and failure.
Being able to derive useful insights from data won't be of any use unless your team is able to effectively explain to other business units what the implications of it are and what should be done about it. So-called 'soft' skills such as communication are therefore essential, especially for professionals who will be tasked with breaking down technical concepts to non-technical colleagues.
5. Industry knowledge
Having an in-depth knowledge of your industry is hugely helpful in identifying the most important and relevant trends from the data. What may be an important factor for one business could be of much less interest to others. For example, some firms may be more susceptible to seasonal factors than others, so being able to spot what will be important can help ensure you don't go in the wrong direction. This is something that only comes with experience, so it's important to ensure that new hires are fully integrated in every aspect of the company's operations.
6. Business acumen
Sometimes, what seems like the best course of action on paper won't necessarily be the most practical or feasible solution in reality, so it's important BI teams have a strong understanding of their firm's operating model and objectives before they take any recommendations to business units. If these departments don't feel they're being offered practical suggestions, this will undermine confidence in the effectiveness of BI activities.
Of course, you don't need to demand every member of your team has every one of the above skills. Some people will naturally be more gifted in certain areas than others. But by working together and ensuring each person's role plays to their strengths, you can deliver the insights other departments need to be successful.