Even as data needs continue to change, organizations will still need to get the “right information” and then make the “right decisions.” One of the most important roles for business intelligence (BI) is to help business managers and executives ask the right questions in a never-ending quest to ensure that a company survives and thrives in a competitive operating environment.
What Is Business Intelligence?
Business intelligence refers to the collective systems and tools that can be used to obtain, store, access and analyze business data during the decision-making process. BI activities often include data mining, querying, analytical processing and reporting. When used effectively, business intelligence leads to improved organizational performance by leveraging information about internal business operations, suppliers, competitors and customers. The end goal is for BI to contribute directly to the bottom line — usually by facilitating either additional revenues or cost savings. Chief information officers are equally likely to use business intelligence to select a new business opportunity or uncover a business process in need of re-engineering.
After an initial period in which business intelligence was used almost exclusively in financial, retail and marketing sectors, the early successes of BI have encouraged many other industries to borrow business intelligence tools and systems for their own purposes. Regardless of industry, one common tactic is to create optimum price plans by exploiting BI processes. Another favored use of BI is to improve sales and customer satisfaction on e-commerce websites. An invaluable benefit of business intelligence for businesses of all sizes is filtering out extraneous data — eliminating unimportant information so that you can prioritize the most important data.
What else should you know about business intelligence? Three topics come to mind — business intelligence careers, tools and suggested reading list. The remainder of this article will focus on each of these in turn.
Careers in Business Intelligence
Organizations needing business intelligence support can either create a dedicated BI department or selectively outsource business intelligence requirements to an external BI company such as Research Optimus.
Here is a “Top 10” list of business intelligence jobs (in no particular order):
- Business Intelligence Analyst
- Market Intelligence Analyst
- Business Data Analyst
- IT Business System Analyst
- Data Engineer
- Data Warehouse Analyst
- User Experience Analyst
- Business Intelligence Product Manager
- Business Analytics Specialist
- Business Intelligence Developer
Average Salary for Business Intelligence Professionals:
|Annual Salary||US $65,410||£30,564||AU $77,818||₹493,483|
|National Average||US $71,050||£30,000||AU $73,000||₹503,000|
Averages Fee for Business Intelligence Consultanting:
|Annual Fee||US $78,271||£41,859||AU $98,092||₹622,428|
A typical business intelligence analyst must be able to deftly handle relational databases, reporting software, basic programming, statistical analytics and specialized database languages such as SQL.
- Relational databases – Ability to install, implement, test, and maintain relational database software including patches, updates and upgrades.
- SQL – Ability to design and maintain computer databases, handle the storage, organization, and security of information.
- Basic programming skills – A basic knowledge in programming is needed to understand the underlying coding language in reporting software.
- Ease with Reporting software – General understanding of the basic theory and application of latest reporting software.
- Analysis skills – Ability to use and mine data to figure out market and business trends for companies to increase profits and efficiency.
- Communication skills – Effective communication skills might be the most important job skill requirement for a business intelligence expert. “Soft skills” are also mandatory for business intelligence professionals.
- Understanding the “big picture” – The ability to adopt a macro perspective enables a BI analyst to focus on enterprise and team goals.
According to Gartner, internationally recognized as a leader in information technology, 70 percent of business intelligence projects fail because of ineffective business communication. To avoid such BI failures, one practical strategy is to ensure that the “best business intelligence communicators” always take the project lead. Another effective solution is to provide specialized training to all team members — ideally all BI analysts will possess high-level business intelligence communication skills so that your company’s business intelligence projects join the 30 percent that succeed.
Business intelligence jobs require many skills that are unique to the profession. The abilities to collect data from multiple sources, validate and structure raw data, store information in a data warehouse and ensure data is accessible are equally critical to career success. It is not unusual to work simultaneously with multiple SQL databases. An effective business intelligence professional must also be able to consult effortlessly with internal customers in areas such as customer service, logistics and marketing.
Business Intelligence Tools
Business intelligence successes are dependent on placing the right BI tools in the hands of the right people. Here are some of the most popular business intelligence software
- Tableau Desktop — In combination with other Tableau software, this is often considered to be a “complete package” of business intelligence solutions. The Tableau Desktop provides data visualization tools that permit seeing and understanding in a timely fashion.
- QlikView — The approach by QlikView emphasizes intuitive, self-service software that includes an executive dashboard. This enables high-level views of data along with a capability to drill down to more detailed perspectives.
- Alteryx — The Alteryx platform features advanced analytics and data blending. It is designed with the demanding needs of enterprise companies firmly in mind.
- GoodData BI — Platform as a Service (PaaS) available with GoodData BI adds the element of cloud computing to the business intelligence equation.
- Domo — This software facilitates a combination of a business intelligence dashboard along with data visualization and business intelligence reports. Domo allows a simplified approach and a mobile platform.
In addition to the BI tools noted above, some companies have successfully employed open source business intelligence and reporting tools. Examples include BIRT, JasperReport and Pentaho. For example, Pentaho provides a reporting tool as well as integration and data mining capabilities. When evaluating which business intelligence tools to use, most companies should devote special attention to the practical ease of producing business intelligence reports and using the business intelligence dashboard. An effective and thorough selection process requires active involvement of all parties who will be using business intelligence software on a regular basis.
Business Intelligence Reading List
With almost-daily changes impacting the world of business intelligence, how can you possibly keep up with what is going on? One time-efficient strategy is to regularly review several of the leading business intelligence periodicals and books. Here are suggested candidates to consider for your reading list:
Business intelligence magazines:
- Business Intelligence Journal — “Business intelligence, data warehousing and analytics news and resources”
- Capacity Magazine — “Source of business intelligence for the global carrier industry”
- Oracle Magazine Online — One recent article: “Big Data Integration”
- IBM Data Magazine — “The forum for smarter business”
- Information Management — “IT business news”
- BusinessIntelligence.com — A recent article: “What Types of Companies Will Benefit Most From Using Mobile BI?”
Business intelligence books:
Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data by Phil Simon (2013) — “Big Data allows organizations to find potential gold in the petabytes of tweets, texts, Facebook likes, blog posts and related comments, podcasts, photos, videos and the like.”
Precision Marketing: Maximizing Revenue Through Relevance by Sandra Zoratti and Lee Gallagher (2012) — “Relationships matter again and can become even more successful when they are relationships built on rich databases and mediated with advanced communications technology.”
The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership by Martha Heller and Maryfran Johnson (2012) — “The paradox? As CIO, you are your company’s futurist and its archivist.” Martha Heller calls The CIO Paradox, a set of conflicting forces that are deeply embedded in governance.
Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die by Eric Siegel and Thomas H. Davenport (2013) — “With predictive analytics, millions of decisions a day determine whom to call, mail, approve, test, diagnose, warn, investigate, incarcerate, set up on a date and medicate.”
Data Science for Business: What You Need to Know About Data Mining And Data-Analytic Thinking by Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett (2013) — “As you get better at data analytic thinking you will develop intuition as to how and where to apply creativity and domain knowledge.”
A few final words:
With an increasing emphasis on lean organizations and staffing, outsourcing your business intelligence needs deserves serious consideration. Research Optimus is one of the few international experts in the field of business intelligence. Contacting them before you make any BI decisions is possibly the smartest and most cost-effective decision you will ever make.
– Research Optimus