7 Key Skills a BI Analyst Needs to Have

Tech Insights for Professionals

Tech Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for IT pros

Thursday, January 16, 2020

With BI becoming a key component of the modern business, it’s time to look at what skills are required to fulfil the BI analyst role.

Article 5 Minutes

Business Intelligence (BI) is fast becoming a must-have technology for all businesses. With Gartner predicting the industry will be worth $20 billion by 2019, growth and expansion is at the top of the agenda for this emerging technology.

This fast growth is contrasted with statistics from KPMG that show just one-third of CEOs trust analytics. It’s more important now than ever that BI analysts are on top of their game with reliable and accurate reporting.

In order to keep abreast of this fast-paced industry, BI analysts are going to have to make sure they have these 7 key skills in order to keep up.

1. Computer Science

The talent pool may be sparse for those who want to fill the role of a BI analyst but that doesn’t mean the demand for highly skilled individuals isn’t there. As one of the best paying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs for recent graduates, it’s an attractive proposition.

A survey carried out by Plotting Success in 2014 showed that 50% of companies surveyed were specifically looking for new recruits with a degree in Computer Science, followed by 16% of respondents requesting a business degree. Based on these results, it’s clear that many recruiting for a BI Analyst (85%) expect some form of higher education; whether that’s a degree or otherwise.

2. Business acumen

The boom of big data has provided companies with more insight into their customers than ever before which has paved a whole new road for personalised marketing and targeted advertising, as well as being able to provide an accurate analysis of business performance.

But big data can go to waste if the right business acumen isn’t applied. BI analysts need to have a solid understanding of their industry as well as the company’s business model, strategy, objectives and competitors. This allows the analyst to translate the overall business strategy into measureable KPIs that are relevant to all areas of the business.

3. Industry knowledge

An in-depth knowledge of the ins and outs of your industry is another key skill - and one that can only be learned through experience. Gaining this will enable you to better recognize specific trends or changes in the market that may have a significant impact.

For example, having a clear understanding of what effect seasonality has on activities within your sector will ensure these effects can be accounted for when performing any analytics. Every industry has its own quirks, and having a comprehensive knowledge of what these are and how they affect the results of your BI efforts can be the key to success.

4. Technical skills

More than just being an IT generalist, a BI Analyst needs to have ‘a strong background in all aspects of database technology’, as stated by Robert Half Technology. This includes familiarity with database queries, analytical and reporting tools, OLAP (online analytical processing) and data cube technology.

The role of a BI Analyst is a varied one and so any technical skills you do have need to be interchangeable across the many tasks that you will need to perform. As well as developing and sharing reports that are distributed throughout the business departments, you will need to be able to develop and monitor the data quality metrics.

5. Problem-solving

Another useful 'soft' skill that applies to business intelligence analysis is the ability to look at a challenge from all angles and develop innovative ways of solving. Any professional should be able to look at raw data and identify key insights, but those with excellent problem-solving acumen will be able to work much more proactively, identifying issues early and looking for specific ways to solve them.

Being a good problem solver helps professionals connect the dots and demonstrate how the insights gained from business intelligence activities can be directly applied on a wider scale. It also helps to be inquisitive and curious, as this gives you the drive to test assumptions and always be looking for new ideas and ways of working that can be applied to your analyses.

6. People skills

As well as the above mentioned skills, it’s also important that BI analysts to have the capability to bridge the gap between analytics and the boardroom. It may be that you find yourself crossing the paths of a number of company stakeholders, and so being able to understand the politics in the company as well as how this impacts your role is key to success and can help determine the best course of action for the company.

The role of a BI analyst can be incredibly challenging in a number of ways as the skills required are often varied; not only do you require the more technical skills involved in computer science, but you also need a good business acumen and a skill for handling people. This can often mean that candidates can struggle to establish themselves in this field. Therefore developing these four skills will enable to you to stand in better light when it comes to embracing the role of a BI analyst.

7. Managing detail and big picture thinking

Being detail-oriented and keeping an eye on the bigger picture may seem contradictory, but if you're to succeed in the world of business intelligence, you'll need to be able to do both simultaneously. Effective analysis needs to focus on the smallest fragment of data - the sort of thing most people would miss - and draw out actionable insight from it.

Final thoughts

However, at the same time, it's vital you don't lose sight of the impact that insight will have on the business as a whole. What will your suggestions mean for your firm's budget? Will they require significant shifts in resources or retraining of personnel? Before presenting any findings to senior executives, it's essential you've considered issues such as these and can respond to any queries.

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