Here at Key2 Consulting we truly believe a career in business intelligence (BI) can be an amazing thing. We may be biased (we’re definitely biased), but that’s the truth.
There are different career paths within BI that you can take to achieve your goals, and these paths will each foster big opportunities for you to learn and grow.
Before we begin, let’s define business intelligence…
We define business intelligence (BI) as taking data and transforming it into meaningful information that is then used to make smarter business decisions.
The Foundational Skills of All BI Positions
The foundational skills of all BI positions entail data management concepts coupled with data manipulation skills.
The more traditional BI route involves mastering relational concepts coupled with SQL (Structured Query Language) as well as mastering non-structured concepts involving Hadoop coupled with Python. This knowledge is used religiously throughout any BI position – whether at the beginning or at the end of your career.
A quick note – if you’re reading this as a college student who’s trying to decide his or her major, Management Information Systems, Business Information Systems, Intelligence Studies, Statistics, and anything in Computer Science are excellent majors for a career in Business Intelligence & Analytics.
Two Different Paths One Can Take
There are two main paths to consider for a career in BI, and they are generally thought of as the “back-end” and “front-end.” Both of these paths are rich in opportunities. Furthermore, there are plenty of BI professionals that take a shot at both of these paths over their career as a way to gain more knowledge, broaden their skillset, and generate more opportunities.
Let’s discuss the back-end career path first.
Business Intelligence Career Path: Back-End Development
For back-end BI development, the foundational skills revolve around 3 primary capabilities.
- The ability to source data: This involves being able to collect data in whatever system, stream, location, and format it exists.
- The ability to manipulate data: The raw data you’re working with will need to be validated, cleansed, and integrated. And in some instances, business logic will need to be applied to the data. This is the first step in creating value from the data.
- The ability to create data structures and storage architecture: In order to make the data useful to an audience of users, it must be organized and structured in a way that makes it intuitive to the user audiences and responsive to requests and queries.
People typically call back-end work the “technical” side of BI. Back-end work is hardly noticed by the end-user, hence the name. Working on the technical side of BI involves less design of what you’re delivering for your company/client and more hands-on development, programming, and coding of the solution. That’s not to say that if you’re a back-end developer you won’t ever be doing architecture and design work. But for the majority of your time, you will be doing more technical tasks like development, and less design.
The back-end skill set from a general perspective is known as “Extraction, Transformation, and Loading” (ETL). ETL concepts can be easily studied and understood, but hands-on work with data and developing the code to move the data around is what really gains you valuable experience.
Business Intelligence Career Path: Front-End Development
And then there’s the other path for BI professionals: front-end development.
The foundational skill for “front-end” BI workers is the presentation of information.
Professionals from a front-end perspective must be able to access the needed data to support the reporting or analytics product for which they are creating. More importantly, the professional must understand the context for which the information is to be used – from both the problem it analyzes to the audience that’s consuming it.
The goal of front-end work is to place information into a context that allows the consumer of the information (the user) to use it to make smart decisions. Many of these roles use SQL (or a software tool that creates SQL for you) to both query and manipulate that data into a context that takes the form of reports or dashboards for your customer (internal customer or external customer).
***Outside of the traditional SQL tools, there are other options for front-end BI development, such as BIRT, Jaspersoft Community, Qlikview Personal Edition, Microsoft Power BI, Tableau Public, and more.
People typically call front-end development the “functional side” of BI. It is in this position where your ability to interact and listen to your customers’ needs is extremely valuable. The technical ability to develop the interfaces in order to provide the reporting and analytics they have requested is vital to have as well.
Outstanding front-end BI developers are able to build reports and dashboards that are both very easy to use and visually appealing. Additionally, great front-end BI developers are able to present a company’s data in a meaningful way that shows users important trends in their company’s data. Doing so generates invaluable business insights and knowledge that would not be realized without business intelligence. These professionals also routinely provide support to users and ensure the proper configuration and management of the BI solutions they are responsible for.
Some common skills companies look for in front-end BI developers are a strong understanding of data visualization best practices, ETL experience, strong analytical and quantitative skills, and strong communication skills.
Popular Job Titles in Business Intelligence
– Big Data/Hadoop Developer
– Business Intelligence Consultant
– Database Applications Developer
– Data Warehouse Developer
– Data Warehousing Consultant
– ETL Developer
Have Questions About a Career in BI?
If you have any questions regarding a career in business intelligence, leave a comment or contact us and we will get back to you as soon as we can with an answer.