How to Become a Business Intelligence Analyst
Working in business intelligence requires a particular mix of IT wizardry, strong business acumen, and people skills. Luckily, if you work in IT and are looking to make a career switch to BI, then you're more than halfway there.
Switching from IT to BI makes sense for many people who want a fast track into management. Right now, BI is a relatively easy career field to enter.
The demand for BI professionals is massive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 14 percent growth in demand for BI analysts through 2024. The recent expansion in this profession has grown with the amount of data collected by businesses.
Organizations want to push the envelope by applying data to improve outcomes in their various enterprises. In highly competitive industries, there is always a need to stay one step ahead of the competition. Business intelligence is emerging as the key to solving the "smarter, faster, cheaper" equation.
To make the transition from IT to BI, you'll want to learn data analysis tools while sharpening your business knowledge.
What is Business Intelligence Analytics?
Large companies have always collected data. But cheap data processing and storage has supercharged that data collection. It's common across industries to warehouse all the data they can — and then try to make sense of it later. That's the job of the BI analyst.
Increasingly, businesses are turning to data to gain an industry edge by increasing customer satisfaction, exploring new avenues for growth, and discovering areas to improve efficiency. A BI analyst is an IT-management crossover position that mines data in order to produce reports and inform business decisions.
Surprisingly, the industries with the most openings are typically finance, insurance, healthcare, and manufacturing. Despite this concentration, opportunities exist in every field.
What Skills Are Required to be a BI Analyst?
Because of the crossover nature of BI, it's important to possess a strong IT background in database development and data management. Additionally, analysts need communication, presentation, and critical thinking skills. It helps to have a degree in business administration, but it's certainly not required with the right technical skills.
In smaller organizations, BI analysts wear more hats. Within the largest corporations, analysts will be more specialized. In either case, analysts' skills are split between technical and management.
What Are the Technical Skills Required to Be a BI Analyst?
The IT part of the profession places a priority on database skills. You'll want to be proficient in database creation and maintenance, as well as designing advanced SQL queries. For exposure to the most common database platforms, you may want to begin by training for an MCSA SQL Server 2016 or Oracle certification.
However, if you're an experienced DB Admin or database programmer, you're ready to grasp the "big data" picture by learning Apache Hadoop and the ins and outs of its various platforms.
Programming Skills Are Essential for BI Analysts
Even the smallest companies can have immense datasets, so you'll need programming skills to help handle the load and automate workflows. This doesn't mean you need to spend years becoming a C++ or Java guru. You'll mostly want to focus on Python and SQL.
Among languages, Python is relatively easy to learn and makes quick work of complex data tasks. Next, you'll want to become proficient with pandas — a powerful data structuring and analysis tool. When coupled with Python libraries matplotlib or scikit-learn, pandas makes Python the go-to language for data scientists and analysts. There are no certifications that validate your knowledge of Python. It's all about diving right in and starting to learn it — or even gaining an advanced understanding.
While there are no Python certs, Microsoft offers a wide array of technical certifications for SQL. The Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP) and MCSA – Business Intelligence are the most popular entry points into the BI certification biosphere. There are also a number of related MCSA certifications that can put you on the roadmap faster, such as the MCSA: SQL 2016 Business Intelligence Development.
Employers Prefer Knowledge of Tableau or Power BI
Excel and SQL skills are great. However, knowledge of next-generation tools will ease the transition to BI analyst. With advanced business analytics capabilities, Tableau and Power BI are renowned for their ability to identify data insights and create actionable reports. Most importantly, these reports are very easy to use once set up. Even technology-challenged managers can easily drill down into a data flow. But it's your job to set them up.
Ready to Become a Business Intelligence Analyst?
IT pros who want to make the switch to BI analyst will find many opportunities. The biggest impediment to filling analyst positions is often technical expertise. With a couple certs or experience with databases, you're halfway there.
With business analytics platforms such as Tableau at your disposal, the rest of the journey should be within easy reach, and CBT Nuggets can get you there.
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