Business intelligence analysts take an organization's accumulated data and turn it into information that leadership can use to make business decisions.

Companies are quickly embracing the use of big data analysis, which has increased their activities in data mining, cleansing and reporting. Business intelligence (BI) analysts help them drive their business with verifiable data. Joey Lagone, branch manager for Robert Half Technology, says, "Decisions made from the information provided by experts in business intelligence can have an immediately quantifiable return on investment."

BI analysts are in high demand, and employers are prepared to pay skilled talent well.

What a company looks for in an intelligence analyst

Qualifications to work as a business intelligence analyst include:

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

For students who aspire to become business intelligence analysts, Lagone recommends taking courses in SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) and SQL Server development. Due to the heavy use of analytics and exposure to standard tools and techniques, he also suggests that an internship working in the financial industry can help students make valuable contacts and find a mentor.

Lagone also recommends that professionals already in the market for business intelligence analyst jobs look for progressive companies that utilize their IT departments to help drive business decisions rather than just to keep the company running.

Business intelligence at work

BI analysts design and develop enterprise-wide data analysis and reporting solutions. They also review and analyze data from multiple internal and external sources. After performing their assessment, business intelligence analysts communicate the results and make recommendations to senior management. They also may be asked to develop data cleansing rules. Most business intelligence analysts spend much of their time responding to management’s requests for specific information conducting research for a customer in marketing, for example but also may be expected to explore data independently to identify patterns and trends, and provide new insights to the business.

Lagone says that candidates need the ability to make rational and logical decisions to ensure the data used is accurate and well-sourced. He adds, "Business intelligence analysts are traditionally very analytical and must be able to make decisions based on data — not opinions."

Check out Robert Half's latest Salary Guide for job descriptions and starting compensation trends for a wide range of IT jobs — including business intelligence analyst.