What is a business intelligence analyst?

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

Business analyst

Whether it's customer-sourced or operational, there is more data to manage than ever before. This, of course, comes with many benefits: raw data presents a huge opportunity for all businesses to improve their products and services, as well as get more insights on their customers.  

However, this plethora of data comes with an enormous burden of responsibility. If data you hold is leaked, mismanaged, or even squandered you could get into serious trouble. In Europe, data is regulated under the EU's GDPR, whereas the UK has the Data Protection Act 2018.  

Preventing data breaches should be high on the agenda, particularly if you want to keep your businesses away from bad headlines, but ensuring the data you have is being used to its full potential must also be a top priority. 

Such is its value, data use is only going to increase and it means that organisations are now on the hunt for specific individuals with the ability to harness the vast insights that could improve their business. Demand for new employees with data analysis skills far outstrips the number of potential candidates with the needed experience. 

Reportedly, data scientist has become one of the most in-demand roles over the last few years, with job listings increasing by 78% since 2015. However, organisations are also looking for people who will be able to see data from the same perspective as them: business. Someone who will be able to see data and help translate its language in a way that is comprehensible from a business point of view.

This is what a business intelligence (BI) analyst does. From looking out for patterns in customer behaviour to comparing productivity with output, their ultimate role is to use data to inform critical decisions about the future of the company they're working for.

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.

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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.

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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