What is a business intelligence analyst?

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

Business analyst

Businesses now have more access to data than ever before, with information flowing freely through organisations on a massive scale. This is hardly a surprise given the rise in internet speeds and the capabilities to transfer information, as well as the explosion in Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which connect a series of sensors, gadgets and devices together, each gathering data points.

But while IoT technology is still in its relative infancy, the need to harness this volume of data and ensure it's being utilised to its maximum potential is becoming increasingly important. This is where a business intelligence (BI) analyst comes in.

The role of a BI analyst involves extracting critical insights from a sea of confused and indeterminate information. Spotting patterns in customer activity, for example, or in productivity versus output all come under the remit of the BI analyst, with such insights lending themselves well to future business decisions. It only makes sense that as the amount of data that can potentially be analysed and interpreted rises, so does the demand for BI analysts within companies.

They 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 to making crucial businesses decisions, but the insights of BI analysts are often key to their decisions, and using this insight ensures their decisions are essentially based on evidence. 

The result of this demand and the highly useful role BI analysts can provide, it is 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 which is appropriate for the needs of the company.

Female IT programmer working on a desktop computer in data centre

What qualifications does a BI analyst need?

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.

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BI analysts should have training experience in various analytic processes, such as enterprise, SWOT, and PESTEL analysis, as well as have experience of 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.

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 BI analyst in the UK can expect to be paid on average around £30,000 a year, and many companies also offer additional benefits and bonuses. The average annual bonus for a BI analyst is around £20,00 in the UK.

While the average UK salary is £30,000, some companies at the highest level are offering salaries of circa £45,000.

As demand for data and data analysts increases, it's likely positions will become more competitive and businesses will begin paying a higher premium for specialist BI analysis skills. This also means it's vital for those who want to transition to an analyst role to ensure they have enhanced skills and businesses continue to offer opportunities for training.

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