Wanted: One Business Intelligence Analyst.
Must be: Flexible, super-smart, prepared to put in some serious hours.
Sense of humor: optional.
Those afraid of change need not apply.
“Don’t fix what ain’t broken,” “well, it worked this way last time so I guess it will do the same this time,” “the data isn’t perfect, but it will do”. These are three things you will never hear a business intelligence analyst say.
The world of business intelligence and corporate insight is an ever changing one. It is a landscape in which profound levels of understanding are prized above all else, and in which accuracy is key. While an analyst may recognize that there can be no such thing as a 100%, sign-sealed-delivered perfect data set, this does not stop them from trying to achieve this perfection.
So, what are the primary duties of the modern business intelligence analyst? Let’s have a look at the top 5.
1. Applying the Right Strategies to the Right Data
This might seem obvious, but let’s think about it for a second. The fundamental principle of data analysis is to derive insight from otherwise incomprehensible reams of facts and figures, but even insight can be nuanced.
A mistake which many people make is to assume there is a single, valid interpretation for each set of data. In fact, statistics can be used to draw any number of different conclusions. These conclusions can all be genuine – they can all be an accurate representation of the truth at the heart of the data – but this does not mean that they are relevant.
The savvy data analyst knows which data sets – or which portions of a particular data set – to use. Not only this, but they know which techniques and strategies to apply to that data in order to reach the understanding they need.
Getting lost in a sea of data is simply not an option; to get the best results, the analyst needs to keep his or her head and find the right path to insight.
2. Staying Ahead of the Curve
The trouble with these techniques, strategies and tools is that they are in constant flux. Once upon a time, an analyst simply needed to make sense of the information in front of them. Nowadays, they need to be sentries and lookouts, too, consistently examining and re-appraising the methods they use and looking for new approaches to add to their toolkit.
Standing still in this business is suicide. Unless your current selection of data platforms and best practices is yielding you perfect results time and time again, you need to be constantly looking to hone and fine-tune it.
The journey to perfection is not a sprint. In fact, it’s not even a marathon. Instead, it is a Sisyphean struggle up a never-ending hill, pushing an ever-growing boulder. So you better strap yourself in and enjoy the ride!
3. Recognizing Past, Present and Future, then Bringing All Three Together
You collect the data, you utilize it and draw insight from it, then it can be disposed of, right? Wrong. Business intelligence analysts must get into the habit of archiving data, and understanding that there is always more insight to be derived from it.
A key duty of an analyst is to recognize this and to store data for future use. Then, they must return to these archived sets, comparing and contrasting them against data in the present and against future projections. The end game here is a profound level of understanding. Bringing past, present and future data sets to bear on this understanding is just another way to the results you need.
So, don’t fear living in the past or dreaming about the future; just remember to examine the data in all three tenses to arrive at the ideal conclusion.
4. Practicing Fiscal Responsibility
It is an unavoidable fact of business that every department must pay its way, particularly after some extremely rough fiscal sailing over the last decade. The business intelligence division of an organization is no exception to this rule, and these teams will be expected to put their expertise towards reducing costs and boosting profits.
Analysts will need to justify the actions they take, demonstrating how their insight is helping to drive growth and prevent loss. In many ways, this is actually beneficial to analysts, as they find themselves constantly questioning the insight they derive.
How does this insight fit into the organization’s business model? What are the ramifications of this further down the line? What impact does this have in real terms? Asking these questions gives analysts more scope. The answers will help them to hone their practices and protocols going forward.
5. Getting the Bigger Picture
This idea of broader scope is intrinsic to the duties of the modern business analyst. No organization exists in isolation; they have market shares, product competition, and corporate reputations to be worried about. Motivational speakers might tell us to always look forwards and to be focused, but casting a sideways glance is necessary from time to time.
Analyzing activity in the market is vital. After all, how can an organization understand what is working and what is not without looking at where they are in relation to the competition? However, it does not end here.
Business analysts are increasingly being tasked with analyzing the specifics of what individual competitors are doing. This includes smaller scale operations using case studies and in-depth analytics to find an ideal business model which is proven to facilitate growth, and also covers larger companies looking to their competitors in search of new ways to stay ahead of the game.
These are just a few of the myriad duties that the modern business intelligence analyst must handle each and every day. This is not a static field. It is a developing one. Expect these duties to shift and alter accordingly over time.
So, if you think you have what it takes, step on up and dazzle the world with your unique insight.
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