What Makes A Good Business Intelligence Analyst


What makes a good business intelligence analyst?

I hear this question a lot. “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.

What is a business intelligence 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.

Ask the right questions and interpret the response

Sometimes the person asking the analyst for information is 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.

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.

Understand technical options

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.

Understand the business

Often an analyst will interact with many different areas of the business. There aren’t many roles that interact with many parts of the business; the data people are one of those that does.

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.

A centralised BI team facilitates the spread of these learnings, thereby increasing efficiency.

What skills does a good business intelligence analyst need?

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?

Generally, because of the extensive communication with the business, BI analysts sit within a business team.

I’m sure other people have different opinions on what makes a good analyst.

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.

2 thoughts on “What Makes A Good Business Intelligence Analyst”

  1. Hi “Business Analytics” – not sure what your name is so I will address you with the name used in the post 🙂

    I think the 3 questions you have listed highlight what really a business intelligence should always look for. In fact i think one of the main skills for the non-analyst like me is to look for details, those are the ones that will help you to build up your story or the business case.
    I believe anyone nowadays (I work for an online giant, so yes we are addicted to numbers and reports) should be able to conduct simple analysis and only refer to the BI when in need to scale the research or refine it for a board meeting.

    I could add one extra of the point to your question (although keeping it at 3 is neat) –
    Who are you going to report to?
    Sometimes I had to conduct analysis for a superior on mine without a clue and surely it’s best to point them in the right directions

    • Thanks, fully agree everyone should be able to do basic analysis themselves and only come to BI when they’re stuck, it makes business function far more efficiently. I’ve lost count of the number of people I have taught to vlookup and pivot data 🙂 BI should be there to advise, point in the right direction and develop/amend when the information isn’t currently available or isn’t available in a user-friendly way.


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