The Evolution of the BI Analyst

Find out why BI Analysts are in demand, and how the job evolved.

Put simply, business intelligence (BI) analysts gather data and use them to help organizations make better decisions. In recent years, this role has grown in importance as increasingly powerful IT tools have allowed these professionals to work efficiently with larger and larger data sets. Here’s a look at how the BI analyst has evolved over time.


The early data of business intelligence analysis

The foundations of the BI analyst role were laid down decades ago. Data warehousing (see its history here and here) gave these specialists the tools to sift through large quantities of information on a companywide scale to get a big picture of the organization’s health. Early warehousing systems like Teradata required the BI analyst to be equal parts data expert, system administrator and programmer. Without sophisticated graphics capabilities, such analysts produced large reports of data and had to interpret the numbers and create write-ups so business leaders could understand what these numbers meant.

The release of Hadoop in 2008 ushered in the big data movement.



New tools open new possibilities

Over time, the roles became more specialized. Positions such as data warehouse manager arose, freeing the BI analyst to focus on studying problems and recommending solutions. Tools like Crystal Reports (since renamed SAP Crystal Reports) allowed BI analysts to create data visualizations and interactive reports. Such advances led to the role evolving from gatekeeper to enabler. Today, the BI analyst is an integral part of the decision-making leadership team.

The big data era

The release of Hadoop in 2008 gave the BI analyst a new arrow in the quiver. This Java-based programming framework ushered in the big data movement, and with it came the ability to turn massive amounts of data into actionable information in recordtime.

Big data has quickly risen to become one of today’s most powerful IT trends, and BI analysts are riding that wave. Subsequent technologies like Spark (2009) make real-time analyses possible. This, in turn, has given the BI analyst the ability to show senior management the direct impact of their decisions. For example, a company can discount a product sale, watch how buying patterns change and quickly adapt to it. Or they can run different marketing campaigns in parallel, observe which one nets the most sales and then select the most successful one to disseminate nationwide.

Big data has quickly risen to become one of today’s most powerful IT trends, and BI analysts are riding that wave.




The BI analyst position is in high demand. The starting salary of $113,750–$164,000 in 2016 is a 6.2 percent increase compared to 2015. Companies look for candidates with:

  • A strong background in all aspects of database technology, with an emphasis on the use of analytical and reporting tools.
  • A bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems or engineering.
  • Several years of experience with database queries, stored procedure writing, online analytical processing (OLAP) and data cube technology.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.