What is a business intelligence analyst? A role for driving business value with data
The business intelligence analyst role is highly analytical and requires a balance of IT, communication and problem-solving skills.
By Sarah K. White
Business intelligence (BI) analysts transform data into insights that drive business value. Through use of data analytics, data visualization and data modeling techniques and technologies, BI analysts can identify trends that can help other departments, managers and executives make business decisions to modernize and improve processes in the organization.
The BI analyst role is becoming increasingly important as organizations move to capitalize on the volumes of data they collect. BI analysts typically discover areas of revenue loss and identify where improvements can be made to save the company money or increase profits. This is done by mining complex data using BI software and tools, comparing data to competitors and industry trends and creating visualizations that communicate findings to others in the organization.
BI analysts typically handle analysis and data modeling design using data collected in a centralized data warehouse or multiple databases throughout the organization. It’s a role that combines hard skills like programming, data modeling and statistics with soft skills like communication, analytical thinking and problem-solving. Candidates need a well-rounded background to balance the line between IT and the business.
You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, business, mathematics, economics, statistics, management, accounting or in a related field. If you have a degree in an unrelated field but have completed courses in these subjects, that can suffice for an entry-level role in some organizations. Other senior positions may require an MBA, but there are plenty of BI jobs that look only for an undergraduate degree.
Business intelligence analyst job description
Job descriptions will vary by company, but these are some of general responsibilities you can prepare yourself for, according to a sample BI analyst job description from Indeed:
Review and validate customer data as it’s collected
Oversee the deployment of data to the data warehouse
Develop policies and procedures for the collection and analysis of data
Create or discover new data procurement and processing programs
Cooperate with IT department to deploy software and hardware upgrades that make it possible to leverage big data use cases
Monitor analytics and metrics results
Implement new data analysis methodologies
Review customer files to ensure integrity of data collection and utilization
Perform data profiling to identify and understand anomalies
Business intelligence analyst skills
To become a successful BI analyst, you’ll need a mix of technical, soft and analytical skills. The job requires you to mine data using complex tools and software and then analyze that data to find trends. Once you spot data trends, you’ll need to effectively communicate your findings to others in the organization. You’ll also be responsible for suggesting possible solutions to fix issues that you find — especially if they’re tied to revenue loss.
PayScale also identifies cities where BI analysts earn salaries that are higher than the national average. These include San Francisco, CA (24%); Washington, DC (18%); Houston, TX (8%); Seattle, WA (7%); Boston, MA (7%); New York, NY (6%); Phoenix, AZ (4%); and Austin, TX (3%).
Business intelligence analyst interview questions
You never know what a recruiter or hiring manager will ask during an interview, but you can prepare so you’re ready for whatever they throw at you. Companies may stick to standard interview questions about your past work experience and future goals. Or, they might go as far as to ask you quirky questions or put you on the spot by asking you to analyze data during the interview. Before your next BI analyst interview, it’s a good idea to dig around online to see if you can get a sense for what questions you’ll be asked.
Explaining past data challenges and how you overcame them
Describing the different parts of an SQL statement
Demonstrating your knowledge of data modeling, blending and joining
Hands-on testing using the company’s actual data tables to test your ability to find specific trends
Definitions or knowledge of common BI analyst terms such as variable, data visualization, weighted average, inner and outer join, delete, truncate and union
Questions about popular BI tools, programming language and software such as Tableau, SQL, Python, C#, Hadoop and others
Brain teasers that show your critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
Real-time problem-solving exercises using Excel or other BI tools.
Business intelligence analyst resume
When writing your BI analyst resume, you’ll want to focus on the most relevant skills, tools and abilities that companies are looking for. You won’t find a universal template to help you build your BI analyst resume, but there’s information you can include to make sure yours stands out among the competition. Your years in the workforce, current job, education, certifications and side-projects will influence how you write your resume.
Resume-writing is a unique experience, but you can help demystify the process by looking at sample resumes. JobHero offers assistance and guidance for writing a BI analyst resume, with different formats and templates for workers with varying seniority, experience and education. Another site, VelvetJobs offers guides to tailoring your resume, a resume builder, resume templates and examples of successful BI analyst resumes.
Business intelligence analyst certification
Offered by Transforming Data with Intelligence (TDWI), the Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP) certification is currently one of the only professional certifications available that is specifically tailored to BI analysts. You can be certified as a practitioner, which is the designation awarded if you score above 50 percent on all three exams. This level demonstrates working knowledge of relevant BI concepts, techniques and tools. If you score a 70 percent or higher on all three exams, you’ll be certified at the Mastery level. This level demonstrates your “ability to effectively lead a team at the project and program levels,” and that you have the skills to mentor others, according to TDWI.
To earn your CBIP certification, you’ll need two or more years of full-time experience in CIS, data modeling, data planning, data definitions, metadata systems development, enterprise resource planning, systems analysis, application development and programming or IT management. Candidates are also required to have at least a BA or MA in information systems, computer science, accounting, business administration, engineering, mathematics, sciences or statistics.
You can also choose to get certified in specific BI tools such as Hadoop, SAS, Python, R, and other programming languages or software designed for data analysis and data visualization. If you notice a specific tool or framework is included on the job descriptions you’re interested in, it might be worth getting certified to improve your chances of landing an interview.