What is a business intelligence analyst?

Find out how to become a business intelligence analyst, what the job involves, and what salary you can expect

Business analyst

Although data is inherently precious to an organisation and its functioning, it can also be considered a burden.

While businesses have access to more data than ever before, they are under close scrutiny to ensure that the data is being kept confidential and in accordance with local data governance laws, such as GDPR.

Moreover, there exists also the hidden pressure of making sure that the data managed by the organisation is being used to its fullest potential, which can be especially difficult when being completely swamped with information.

This is where a business intelligence (BI) analyst comes in, whose job is to dive into the ocean of confused and indeterminate information and fish out the most critical and interpretable insights.

A BI analyst can be responsible for a variety of data, whether it is looking out for patterns in customer behaviour or comparing productivity with output. Nevertheless, the insights discovered by a BI analyst can be then used in making critical decisions about the future of the business.

BI analysts should be well placed to determine and quantify the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation, based on insights gleaned from the information at hand, and to contribute to strategic thinking based on their assessments. Senior IT managers may be those charged with making crucial business decisions, but the insights of BI analysts are often what fuel those decisions.

Given the highly useful role BI analysts can provide, it should come as no surprise that the companies looking for such analysts are also varied; companies range from retailers and investment firms to NHS healthcare trusts and telecoms giants. With this in mind, the career of a BI analyst could be both varied and lucrative.

What does a BI analyst do?

BI analysts spend a lot of their time analysing data in order to identify company weaknesses and formulate solutions to these problems. To do this, BI analysts are responsible for some of the following tasks:

  • Conducting tests to ensure that intelligence is consistent with defined goals
  • Maintaining or updating BI tools and databases
  • Understanding and communicating business requirements
  • Developing BI and data warehouse strategies
  • Analysing competitive market strategies through analysis of a related product, market, or share trends
  • Presenting findings to all levels of management

BI analysts may also be responsible for competitor analysis, keeping up to date with industry trends, and exploring where their organisation can improve and reduce costs. Depending on the organisation involved, a BI analyst may be responsible for developing or researching a suitable business intelligence solution that is appropriate for the needs of the company.

What qualifications does a BI analyst need?

Female IT programmer working on a desktop computer in data centre

An educational background in areas such as mathematics, computer science, or another technology subject is essential for this field and it's often required (or strongly preferred) that aspiring BI analysts obtain an undergraduate degree.

BI analysts should have training experience in various analytic processes, such as enterprise, SWOT, and PESTEL analysis, as well as have experience in technologies like SQL. It would also be beneficial for an aspiring BI analyst to be trained in areas such as management and scenario planning.

Whilst technically not necessary, it would be useful to get certified when participating in this field. The benefits of earning a certification include professional recognition, professional development opportunities, and an increased salary certified BI analysts see a 16% average increase. There are different programmes available with varying levels of certification, so it's important for a BI analyst to find one that closely aligns with their goals.

What skills should a BI analyst have?

With a role so heavily reliant on data, it will come as no surprise to hear that anyone wishing to pursue a career in data analysis will need a strong analytical mind and technical skills to understand the meaning of the information.

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A BI analyst also needs to possess strong people and social skills as much of their work is communicating with clients and customers to share information and suggest how the data can be used to develop their business.

Secondary skills that are probably not essential, but should be considered if applying for a role as a BI analyst should be problem-solving and team management. It's likely you'll need to work closely with other analysts and areas of the business to advise and help stakeholders make decisions.

How much does a BI analyst get paid?

A business intelligence analyst based in the UK can expect an average annual salary of £31,000, with a bonus of anywhere between £509 and £4,000 a year, according to compensation research website Payscale.

The salary is likely to increase over time based on acquired experience in the field as well as the constant influx of data that businesses have to manage and analyse. Although an entry-level BI analyst is likely to start their job with an annual salary of £26,000, they can expect a raise of £1,000 for every additional year of work. By the time they have at least five years of experience, the salary is likely to surpass the £35k mark, while a decade in the field brings an estimated total compensation of almost £39,000. BI analysts who have at least 20 years of experience in the field usually earn an average of £50,000 a year.

Due to businesses having to deal with a vastly growing amount of data, the demand for BI analysts is constantly increasing. This could result in higher premiums for specialist BI analysis skills, which means that honing your data analysis skills pays off – literally.

However, when applying for a BI analyst role, candidates should make sure that the employer is capable of providing them with opportunities for training. Acquiring new, enhanced skills means that they can not only provide the company with the best of what they have to offer, but also make sure that they stay on top of the ever-changing landscape of data.

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