Information is one of the critical resources of modern times. In the context of business operation, useful information is called business intelligence. In this day and age, almost everything is about gathering business intelligence and interpreting it to gain a competitive advantage.
But you can’t just gather data and expect it to work wonders on its own. It doesn’t work that way. In order to utilize the insights and make the most of it - you need a trained employee - a business intelligence analyst.
The problem is that not everyone understands what these folks are doing.
In this article, we will explain what a BI analyst is and how it contributes to the business operation.
Business intelligence analyst (aka BI analyst) is a specialist trained to work with data analytics applications to:
- interpret the incoming data gathered by machine learning algorithms;
- extract relevant insights out of it;
- implement insights into the business operation.
The term “business intelligence” refers to data sets formed by data mining and analysis applications that contain valuable information for the specific business operation and informs particular business development goals. The value of information is determined by its potential to affect the business operation and contribute to the decision-making process.
There are two types of Business intelligence:
- Internal - gathered from the enterprise systems like SAP or ORACLE and also drawn from other data capture system within the company and its products.
- External - gathered from outside sources, such as market surveys, competitor analysis or open source data analysis
Business intelligence analyst is the one who handles it, determines whether it is worthwhile and organizes it into a cohesive form. In a way, it is similar to turning coal (all gathered data) into diamonds (valuable insights).
You might ask, “machine learning algorithms can do that too, why bother with hiring an additional person?” Well, automated machine learning algorithms are indeed capable of gathering and extracting data. However, it is not that simple. Machine learning applications produce an immense amount of diverse data that still requires a close assessment. You can’t just throw it in as it is - you need to find relevant insights.
In a way, BI analyst serves as a filter for the incoming information - it is the person who goes through the data and identifies genuinely relevant and useful insights hidden in it.
Machine learning algorithms gather information and cluster it into groups. Then BI analyst further identifies what those patterns mean for business and how one should react to them.
A great example of BI in action is determining patterns in customer activity - it lays down how the whole thing works. For example, you have an eCommerce marketplace, and there is a significant spike in demand for pumpkins. BI analyst ties this data with the real world and determines that demand is motivated by Halloween later in the month. It means there should be more pumpkins in the supply chain to satisfy the product demand.
Speaking of skills. The job of a Business Intelligence Analyst involves a lot of different analytical and problem-solving operations that require a certain level of expertise in:
- Information Technology,
- Data Science,
- Computer Engineering (to operate tools, etc.).
In addition to that, BI analyst is required to have specific industry knowledge, understanding the way the industry works.
The other important thing is communication skills. Given the fact that BI analyst job directly contributes to the decision-making process - it is essential to transmit information in an accessible manner keeping everybody on the same page.
The primary purpose of BI analyst within the company structure is to provide a thorough quality informational support of the decision-making process according to its current goals.
Business Intelligence Analyst's work includes the following fields:
- Understanding the current state of things in the company and on the market
- Identifying the scope of the data analysis operation
- How much data is managed? How much information is available out there (i.e., available sources)?
- What types of data are available?
- How reliable is gathered data? How available is the data within the system?
- Is the information presented in the accessible form (i.e., adequately visualized)?
- Applying the fitting technology for data capture, storage, and processing for the current business needs.
Activity-wise, BI analyst responsibilities include the following:
- Presenting relevant insights to those responsible for the decision making
- Communicating current business requirements throughout the company or project
- Managing Business Intelligence databases
- Running various reports from the available databases;
- Managing BI tools and assessing its performance
- Testing the consistency of business intelligence with the current goals
- Performing the competitor analysis,
- Following relevant industry trends and evaluate their relevance for the business goals,
- Exploring the possibilities for improvement and cost reduction for the company's data infrastructure
Making data actionable is undoubtedly the primary concern of the business intelligence analyst. Pretty much every aspect of BI analyst job is aimed at that.
In the grand scheme of things, business intelligence analysts serve as a human connection between the data out there and business goals. Together they cause the reaction in the form of valuable insight.
Overall, making data actionable means:
- overseeing the data gathering process,
- performing data analysis,
- determining the value of available insights
- presenting them in an accessible form.
The thing with data is that you gather it as much as you like - it only starts to matter when you make sense of it within your specific context, determine its real value and make decision-based on that. BI analyst is trained to do that.
Handling the information and determining its value is only one of the aspects of BI analyst’s job. Assessing the effectiveness of data gathering and storage and figuring out the best way of doing it is another aspect.
After all, it is tough to maintain an effective operation if your systems are:
- lacking certain features (like streaming visualization),
- inadequate for the current business needs (gathering customer feedback when you need competition study)
- utterly unable to scale operation on an individual level.
Keeping the system up to date and on the same page with the current business needs is one of the indirect responsibilities of the business intelligence analyst.
For the most part, the need for updates or other changes manifests itself through the results of data analysis. It shows when the data is consistent or lacking certain features.
In addition to data analysis itself, a business intelligence analyst often serves as a system tester and auditor. This activity contributes to subsequent system updates or even overhauls.
Identifying insights and determining its value to the business operation not always means finding just the good stuff. Sometimes it means finding out the bad batch too.
That is the part of the Business Intelligence Analyst’s job that involves serious problem-solving. This process includes:
- Recognizing the issues with the business operation (for example, the bottleneck in customer support pipeline)
- Identifying weak points within the business process (for example, the system can’t process that many requests because it lacks proper scalability)
- Determining the influence of possible factors (like inconsistent or misleading data)
- Predicting the impact of outside threats (like server shutdown)
Business intelligence analyst main goal is to provide the full scope of available data for decision making - whether it is good or bad. The fact of the matter is - you need to know what is going on. And when the problem occurs - you need to understand what could have caused it and find a way of fixing it without breaking anything.
Companies can collect lots of different available data on a massive scale. Social media platforms, mobile applications, websites, Internet of Things gadgets, various sensors - everything has become a viable source of business intelligence.
At this point, BI analyst is one of the integral parts of any modern business operation.
These are the people that can turn the tide and steer the wheel in the right direction. This aspect creates a significant demand for qualified specialists, and this creates the need what Business Intelligence analyst is doing.