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What is a Business Intelligence Analyst and What Do They Do?

business meeting

Before we discuss what a business intelligence analyst is, let’s talk about what business intelligence (BI) is. In short, BI is the use of software and services that help to turn data (often “big data”) into valuable insights. Those insights can then be used to form smarter decisions, plans and strategies. For example, companies can use BI to identify problems, increase efficiency, spot market trends early on and develop revenue-boosting strategies.

So, as you may have guessed, it’s the responsibility of business intelligence analysts to analyze the insights being generated and use them to help an organization’s key players make better decisions, plans and strategies.

Entry-level business intelligence analysts, which may hold job titles such as “business intelligence analyst I,” “junior business intelligence analyst” or “assistant business intelligence analyst,” usually have basic skills in Microsoft Excel, SQL, databases, data warehouses and data visualization.

However, skills required for the business intelligence analyst vary considerably by organization and level, and some roles will require additional skills such as Python programming or experience with specific analytical tools.

The title of “business intelligence analyst” without a qualification such as “junior” or “assistant” usually refers to a higher level professional who has at least a few years of experience under their belt.

One way business intelligence analysts help organizations is by assessing the “Four V’s” of big data:

  • Volume: How much data is being processed, stored and analyzed.
  • Variety: The different types of data that exist.
  • Velocity: The speed of data processing.
  • Veracity: The uncertainty of data.

Assessing those four key big data elements can give business intelligence analysts a comprehensive view of their organization’s data that can then enable them to identify areas that need improvement, estimate the scope of their work and organize an effective data analysis plan.

As mentioned above, the data being analyzed often falls into the category of “big data.” In simple terms, big data refers to exceptionally large data sets. Big data is important because the more you know about something, the better you can understand it, and the smarter the decisions can be. This doesn’t just apply to business, either—it’s also true for healthcare, crime prevention and more.

Knowing that, it’s not hard to see why business intelligence analysts, whose roles  involve big data analysis, are in high demand.

Where Do Business Intelligence Analysts Fit into an Organization?

business discussion

Often, business intelligence analysts are part of an organization’s data science and BI department. Depending on the size of an organization, business intelligence analysts can work with a large team of data scientists and other business intelligence analysts, or they can operate in a small team or even independently.

Business intelligence analysts usually report to senior level executives, such as the:

  • Director of business intelligence
  • Associate director of business intelligence
  • Vice president of business intelligence

Entry-level business intelligence analysts, however, will typically report to a mid-level manager or higher-level analyst, such as the:

  • Business intelligence manager
  • BI project manager
  • Senior business intelligence analyst