What Does a Business Intelligence Analyst Do?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the name “Business Intelligence Analyst” pretty much describes the entirety of the role: i.e., using analytics to generate business intelligence and insights. Yet there are a multitude of diverse activities that sit behind this seemingly innocuous job title – and Business Intelligence Analysts (whom we’ll call BI Analysts from here on to save paper!) have tremendous scope for making as much or as little of the role as they wish.
As you’ll appreciate, all functions within a business can benefit from data-driven insight, whether that be a finance function trying to understand the root causes of mismatched inter-company payments, a sales team trying to prioritise high conversion rate leads, or customer operations trying to determine what the optimal staffing size and mix is to support anticipated inbound call volumes. In the 21st century, companies that don’t make the most of their data can suffer a significant competitive disadvantage.
So far so good. So where do BI Analysts fit into this picture? It’s all very well saying that data-driven insight is an imperative, but systematically generating insight on an ongoing basis for multiple business functions is no mean feat. On the one hand there is the IT owned world of data management, with data often housed in multiple, disparately organised systems and databases over which presides increasingly robust data governance and controls. And on the other there are the business functions themselves, often blissfully ignorant both of what data is captured by the organisation and of the potential for generating insight from it. BI Analysts act as a “bridge” between these two domains.
Actually, “bridge” isn’t really a great metaphor, suggesting that BI Analysts merely act as connectors between data management and business use. “Translator” is perhaps a better one – since BI Analysts are tasked with a wide range of enabling and value-adding roles, including:
- Collaborating with business functions to ideate opportunities to improve decision-making using data insight and to co-design useful analytic outputs and visualisations.
- (Often creatively) manipulating and analysing data to generate insight. Understanding data availability, doing the data profiling and validation, data mining, analysis and visualisation to create insightful reports, and iterating the outputs with business stakeholders.
- Maintaining ongoing BI processes and infrastructure. For example, managing the Business Objects software that companies often use to find data, conduct analytics and generate reports. Responding to ad-hoc business requests for BI reports, providing regular updates to these when the underlying data is refreshed or updated.
- Ensuring the business capitalises on the latest developments in analytics, whether that be in the tools (such as the trend towards more interactive, collaborative BI dashboards) or in analytic techniques (such as the growing use of natural language processing to analyse text and spoken word).
At its broadest, the role of a BI Analyst is to champion data within and across an organisation, making sure that as many as possible can benefit from data-driven insight. In many ways, BI Analysts are the lynchpins of a data literate organisation. They render the otherwise opaque domain of company data transparent and accessible to its business community.