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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

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was supposedly obsessed with data well before he founded the e-commerce behemoth, realising its true value to the world of business long before other visionaries of his generation.

He often frames it as a ‘customer obsession’ rather than one about data itself, but the outcome is the same: fact-driven business intelligence insights that propel seemingly endless growth.

Regardless of your opinion of Amazon as a company and the morally questionable policies it applies to its staff, most notoriously its warehosue workers, what’s incontrovertible is that the insights generated from data, unearthed by business intelligence analysts, have made it the success it is today.

With that in mind, then, it’s no surprise that there is a demand for skilled business intelligence analysts in today’s market. Marry a talented anlalyst with an ambitious company that has implemented a comprehensive and, most importantly, a compliant data culture, and you have a proven recipe for corporate success.

The latter point is especially important given the current data protection legislation in place across Europe. When GDPR came into force in 2018, and through the Data Protection Act 2018 in the UK, the data protection laws mandated businesses be scrupulous with their data collection and retention habits, as well as ensuring its use was transparent and responsible.

Data scientists are said to be among the most in-demand professionals of recent years with job listings up 78% since 2015, according to 2021’s figures. The value a high-quality business intelligence analyst can bring to a company is immense so if finding patterns and actionable insights from data sounds interesting, business intelligence could be the perfect career for you.

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.

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.

Team management and problem solving are some other secondary skills you should probably consider if you’re applying for a role as a BI analyst. It’s safe to say that in this position you’ll probably work closely with other analysts on your teams as well as other parts of the organisation to help and advise key stakeholders with their decision-making.

How much does a BI analyst get paid?

If you’re based in the UK, then business intelligence analysts can usually make an average salary of £31,849 per year. The good news is that you can also expect to receive a bonus anywhere between £763 and £4,000, which is what the compensation research website Payscale has found. 

A business intelligence analyst’s salary is also likely to increase over time, depending on how much experience you have acquired. This is also boosted by the fact that businesses are constantly needing to analyse more and more data, making the role fairly valuable. At the bottom end, entry-level BI analysts usually make around £27,000 per year, and can expect around an extra £1,000 raise for every year of work. Once you’ve worked for around five years, the salary should hit £35,000, while after working for 10 years it plateaus slightly to £38,000. However, analysts who have been in the industry for some time and have at least 20 years of field experience can look forward to earning around £50,000 each year.

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Since organisations are constantly having to sift through more and more data to improve their operations, the demand for these individuals is increasing. It could translate into greater premiums for specialis BI analysis skills, so it might be worth improving your data analysis skills to capture this reward in the future.

One thing that candidates should bear in mind when browsing openings for this role is to ensure that their future employer is able to offer them training opportunities. If you’re able to learn new skills and better yourself, it not only means that the company can benefit from your training, but also helps you to be up-to-date with the ever-changing technology and data landscape.

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