What makes a good business intelligence analyst? Periodically someone asks this question. “Business Analyst” means different things to different people, it can cover a wide variety of different skills. In this case I’m ignoring the Project Manager roles which sometimes have the title of business analyst.

In my opinion a business intelligence analyst is someone who delivers information about the business. A good analyst will understand the business, understand business problems and create insights.Therefore they will have the ability to question, to ask the right questions. In addition the analyst should have a commercial understanding. To challenge user requirements they need an appropriate level of understanding to understand the motives of the requestor.

Sometimes the person asking the analyst for information is actually asking for the wrong information. There are times when the requestor may not fully understand / be able to articulate what they want. A good analyst should identify holes in the requests and try and learn more to plug the holes.

Also it is important to understand how the requestor intends to use the information. This will help define how to deliver the information. Some technical knowledge helps as the analyst should understand what options exist to deliver the information. For example a dashboard, an Excel spreadsheet, PowerPoint, etc.

Often an analyst will interact with many different areas of the business. Therefore they are able to add value to other parts of the business. Information requested by one department could also be useful to another. Processes adopted by one department could benefit another.

Summing Up the analyst skills

When it comes to requirement gathering there are 3 main questions to answer:

  1. What do you want to know?
  2. Why do you want know this?
  3. How will you use this?

The answers to these questions will help identify the best solutions.

In summary, a good analyst should have the following key skills:

  1. Communication. Listening to people is a key part of the role, interpreting what they really want vs what they are asking. Conversing with other parts of the business to identify synergies.
  2. Commercial awareness. The simplest way to interpret requirements it to put yourself in the shoes of the requestor. If you were in their position what would you want and why? How it will help you do your job better?
  3. Technical understanding. What is the optimal way to deliver the information. Is it a problem with a technical solution or a process solution?

I’m sure other people have different opinions on what makes a good analyst. I’m viewing this from an inside perspective as I am one. It would be interesting to know what non-analysts think about the skills a good analyst requires.

I have written a post giving a guide to writing reports, a generic guide on how to approach reporting.