Graduate Careers in Business IntelligenceAbout the AuthorJason Dove is the author of Crystal Reports Formulas Explained and a Business Intelligence expertwho has worked as a consultant for over a decade providing top notch assistance for the worldsleading companies.Three reasons why business intelligence is the onlyoptionGetting that first, all important, foot-hold in the IT industry is the most important thing in the worldfor a new graduate. And if some time has passed since graduation, despair and disenchantment caneasily set in.But there is an option which many do not even think to explore: Business Intelligence.A sub-sector of the IT industry, Business Intelligence is the extraction, summarising and formatting ofdata for informed business decisions and monitoring. As the title of this article implies, there are threevery good reasons why Business Intelligence may be your only route into an IT career.1. Business intelligence is the only growing area in ITI personally started in the BI industry when it was just called "report writing", since then it hasboomed. Employment agencies who didnt know what BI was (and some still dont!) now havededicated departments just to deal with supplying BI consultants. Even during times of hardship, like a recession, all the big companies and corporations turn to BI to aid their survival. And during times of plenty, BI is used to expand and grow. Whatever the economic climate, Business Intelligence is needed.2. Business intelligence needs less experienceThis is not to diminish the value of Business Intelligence, far from it. Because it is so powerful and canhave such a huge impact even a minimum of knowledge goes a long way. The big paying jobs willalways go to the best and most experienced specialists, but there is a realistic starting point whereminimal experience is not a deal breaker as long as the basic knowledge is there. The moreexperience the better, as is always the case, but there is a starting point for the beginner in BusinessIntelligence which is missing from mainstream IT.3. Business intelligence is a new sectorBusiness Intelligence, in one form or another, has been around ever since computers were first usedin business, but somewhere along the way it was forgotten that a computerised system is only asgood as the information it can provide.Then, about ten years ago, a very quiet revolution started and companies started to get interested inall the data they had collected since the first IT revolution. This sector has been steadily expandingever since. At the moment it is just the biggest companies and corporations which use BI, but as youare reading this Business Intelligence is spreading to companies of all sizes as the benefits becomeclear. As this new sector grows, IT savvy people are needed to fill the void. And because of this rapidgrowth all the existing Business Intelligence experts are already taken.
SummaryBusiness Intelligence is not only the easiest route into the IT industry, it can be the only way in forthose with little or no experience.Three more reasons why business intelligence is the onlyoptionFor those hoping to turn their education into a career in IT, these are hard times. That feeling of "thehard work is behind me" has turned into "there is a brick wall in front of me", and that is just to get ajob to start proper work! Business Intelligence is an alternative route into the IT industry which many graduates will overlook but should consider. Business Intelligence is the fastest growing sector in IT and centers around extracting information from existing databases to allow informed business decisions.1. Existing business intelligence experts are busyWhether companies are trying to expand or just survive, Business Intelligence experts are needed.There is literally not enough expertise to go round. This shortage is ideal for anyone wanting to getinto the industry. Potential employers do not have the choice to hire someone with experiencebecause there arent any available.2. Business intelligence has less competitionHow many letters/emails do you think HR departments get from graduates enquiring about DatabaseAdministrator, Programming or Web Designer? Lots!It is easy to get lost in the pile, and even harder to stand out. Declaring yourself to be interested inBusiness Intelligence really sets you apart. Especially in the case of smaller companies, a business willalready have the standard IT employees but not a dedicated Business Intelligence expert. All this aidsin getting an all important foot in the door.3. Business intelligence software is easy to masterOk, that is not strictly true! But the software used for Business Intelligence (Crystal Reports is the defacto standard, though there are many more) is written in such a way that a lot of basic, thoughpowerful, analysis is possible without the in depth knowledge. But do not be misled by this easy start!To actually get the most from BI software a great deal of skill and knowledge is needed.SummaryThis secret of the IT industry will come to the attention of the masses at some point and have thededicated degree subjects it deserves. But at the moment it is the back door into one of the bestindustries in the world. Due to the desperation in the Business Intelligence, with the correct baseknowledge, even the most minimal experience is enough to secure a starting point in the IT industry.Yet three more reasons why business intelligence is theonly optionBusiness Intelligence is the only sector in IT which has survived the recession relatively unscathed.And with good reason. In hard times companies need all the information they can get in order tosurvive. Business Intelligence centers around extracting information from existing databases to allowinformed businesses to evaluate the state of their finances at any point in time and plan futurestrategies.
1. Business intelligence is relevant for all business sectorsThere is not a business in existence which cannot benefit from BI. Personally I have used it to sellpaint, analyse exam results, monitor repair work done on government houses and have even workedon counter-terrorism using the exact same skill-set for each. I have worked in banking, retail,insurance, healthcare, education and government. There really is no limit to what you can do or whereyou can work.2. Business intelligence is an easy platform to other IT areasThere is so much to learn to be a productive employee in the IT industry that it is not onlyoverwhelming to those starting out but is also in the mind of any employer looking at a graduatesresume. And it is not just the what to learn, as this may have been covered at college, but the how.How to actually apply this knowledge in a business environment.Business Intelligence usually requires the knowledge of one piece of software which is designed to doone specific task: generate reports. This really narrows the scope of what you need to learn. At theworst, there is also a distribution application which also needs to be mastered, but this is usually notvery involved.3. Many IT professionals are not cut out to be businessintelligence consultantsThe question you may be asking yourself is: "Why arent other IT people just switching jobs toBusiness Intelligence if it is so great?"The reason is twofold: a. Many of the programmer community just do not have the interpersonal skills to be a BI expert. Working in Business Intelligence requires a great deal of interaction with people at all levels of a business. This is the scariest thing in the world for many programmer types. b. BI is not seen as "proper programming", and to be honest, it is not. The formulas and macros that the more advanced BI Experts use are still only a few lines long. And of course, it is possible to have a successful BI career and not be able to write any code (though it will be a struggle!).Whichever of these cause existing IT expert to stay clear of Business Intelligence (it was b which wasmy initial concern, but I do not regret my choice for a second), it all works to create a fertile groundfor the newcomer to IT.SummaryThe mix of these points makes an ideal combination for anyone hoping to break into the IT industry.Between the rapidly expanding Business Intelligence sector and the lack of prospective employees(even from within the IT industry itself!) this is an opportunity not to be missed. Like all things, themarket place will level itself out over time, but now is the chance to be at the forefront of this excitingnew development.Have you got what it takes?Getting started in a Business Intelligence career may be the easiest way for a graduate to break intothe IT industry, but it is no free lunch and a level of competency must be reached. Getting a job isonly the first step, being well prepared to build a successful career is something else.
Here are the five main areas a Business Intelligence specialist needs to be proficient in. All ofthem are important, but none are deal breakers. Even if you only have one or two of the items on thislist, the rest can be learnt.1. Relational databases Understanding how relational databases work is one of the most important things in Business Intelligence. Working blindly to the table schema provided by the database developer will drastically limit what you can do.2. SQL SQL, Structured Query Language is the programming language used exclusively for extracting information from databases. SQL does not change much between different databases, so learning one version is enough to apply to all databases. It is possible to have a successful Business Intelligence career and never be able to write a line of SQL, but it can certainly make it easier when trying to solve more complex problems.3. Basic programming skills Most reporting software has an underlying scripting language similar to how Excel has macros. All these languages have their own quirks and take some effort to learn, especially as many do not have many resources to refer to. But once learned, it is usual for reporting programmes to only ever be a few lines long and not the hundreds that application software needs to function.4. Reporting software Just like the programming languages, it does not really matter which reporting software you learn, it is more about understanding the theory. That said, it makes sense to learn the most popular and that, by far and away, is Crystal Reports. It is my software of choice, but more importantly, it is used by virtually everyone everywhere and has huge support in the form of both documentation and user base.5. Analysis skills This is the trickiest of the five to define as Business Intelligence analysis is different to what is usually considered to be analysis in the IT industry. The other problem is that no materials exist to learn this specific skill set. It is one of the problems of Business Intelligence for the beginner: it is such a new discipline that the books and courses have not been written yet!
SummaryNone of the above are essential prerequisites to starting a Business Intelligence career, but the moreyou know, the easier it will be. Every single one of these skills can be learnt in a reasonable timeframe, and I would advise learning them all to a comfortable level before going after any BusinessIntelligence position.With the exception of number four, most of these subjects are covered as part of any computer/ITrelate degree, and if you have had the advantage of this level of training it is usually enough to getyou a solid start as a Business Intelligence analyst.Three steps to getting experience1. Know your stuff!The first step is to make sure you have all the basic knowledge to do the job of a BI analyst. Suffice tosay that it makes sense to be able to do the job you are trying to get practical experience in. At thevery least, be comfortable with the reporting software you intend using.2. Let businesses know who you areAdvertising in your local area may seem overwhelming at first, but if you target smaller companiesyou will be pleasantly surprised by the feedback.Why?Because Business Intelligence is a powerful tool which will help any company and is a new miraclecure to smaller businesses. And advertising does not have to mean paid advertising. Most areas havelocal business networks which can provide you the access you need to boost your local economy.3. Make the most of any opportunitiesThe whole point of this approach is to gain experience, so every opportunity to increase yourexperience should be seized with both hands. As obvious as this sounds, when faced with newchallenges or work which may seem pointless, it is too easy to make excuses and avoid things whichare challenging.At this point in your career everything is an opportunity to learn, whether this is talking to a potentialclient about what data they store electronically and how it can be used to aid their business…orcreating a new type of report for an existing customer.Everything is a challenge, but should be seen as an chance to grow your career and get an edge overthe competition.SummaryLack of experience is the number one culprit which can ruin all the years of study and lay waste toyour technical knowledge. As such, it should be given priority as a problem which needs solving. Withthis handled, everything else will fall into place and the benefits which should be part and parcel of anIT based career will be available for the taking.
How to start your career in Business Intelligence?This post is a live example of my career as a developer in Business Intelligence (BI). Istarted BI with no knowledge at hand, and it took me lots of time to understand severalareas of business intelligence. This blog will help you to give a smooth start to your careerin BI.Start by following any book or, materials online where you can get the knowledge on What,Why and How. “How” part can be explored later, but we should start with “What” and “Why”to understand the basics of BI.Following are some areas where you need basic knowledge to understand the overallpicture and once you are clear on the actual picture, you can expertise yourself in any of thearea to start with: 1. The description/definitions of BI, what is it exactly and why we need it for our business to grow. 2. Life cycle of a BI/Data Warehouse projects 3. Difference between OLTP and OLAP 4. Multidimensional Modeling 5. Extraction Transform Load (ETL) 6. BI Architecture 7. Data Mining 8. Reporting techniques 9. Dashboard 10. KPI, etc.Please find below some online links and information on books, which will help you toacquire knowledge on above areas:BooksBusiness IntelligenceBy: Elizabeth Vitt; Michael Luckevich; StaciaMisnerPublisher: Microsoft Press
Dimensional Modeling: In a Business Intelligence EnvironmentBy: Chuck Ballard; Daniel M. Farrell; Amit Gupta; Carlos Mazuela; StanislavVohnikPublisher: IBM RedbooksLinkshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_intelligencehttp://www.bsmithsolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/bilittlebook.pdfhttp://www.ca.com/files/whitepapers/business_intelligence_wp_us_en_197626.pdfThe different careers in BI: 1. ETL Engineer 2. BI Engineer (Reports analysis, design and development) 3. BI Engineer (Presentations -Dashboard, KPI, charts, etc.) 4. Business Analysts (BI) 5. TL/Project Manager (BI) 6. QA/Testing (BI)You would need to work on some tools to develop your solutions, I would suggest you tostart with some open source if you want to understand the basics properly or, you canchoose any paid tool if you want to ease your development.Please find below some tools which we follow as our development, I would suggest startingwith these tools: 1. Talend Studio (ETL Tool), Open Source
2. SpagoBI, Open source, It includes external engines such as Birt, Jasper, JPivot, Jpalo, JPXMLA, Geo, Geo Report, QbE, Weka, R(1), CommonJ, etc. It is a complete solution for BI projects. 3. Schema-Workbench for Mondrian Schema developmentSome other tools in the market: 1. Open Source Tools A. Birt Project B. JasperSoft C. RapidMiner D. R E. Paid Tools i. Tableau Public Desktop (Basic version is free) ii. Pentaho (Basic version is free) iii. Zoho iv. Yurbi, community version is free http://www.yurbi.com/pricing/ v. Cognos, IBM vi. Omniscope, http://www.visokio.com/download/galapagos vii. ElegantJ BI, http://www.elegantjbi.com/ viii. Visdash, http://www.visdash.com/ ix. Dynamic AI, http://www.dynamicai.nl/ x. Precision BI, for healthcare domain, http://www.precisionbi.com/ xi. SuperSTAR SuperSTAR provides a unique solution to the challenge of fast, confidential data tabulation, analysis, visualization and dissemination of large amounts of organizational data. SuperSTAR uses a unique approach to analytical processing and reporting through the application of column-based analytical technology and web-based dissemination in one
integrated environment. Users manipulate and analyze data at any level of aggregation, from unit record or micro data to aggregated cubes of data. xii. GoodData GoodData is more than just dashboards. It’s a powerful tool with a robust analytical engine built on a platform that’s revolutionizing BI. xiii. ElegantJ BI xiv. QlikViewPlease let me know in case you need my help to understand any particular area/subject indetails, I am there to help you always.