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Business Intelligence (BI) Developer Career

How to Become a Business Intelligence Developer

Businesses collect tons of data during regular operations. This information is related to everything from sales numbers to inventory to finances and human resources. What do companies need to do with this data? The process of making information useful involves transforming it, storing it, and turning it into dashboards, visualizations, and reports.

Business intelligence, or BI, is mainly concerned with the last part of the above data pipeline: transforming the data into dashboards, visualizations, and reports. Like the job market for artificial intelligence, the demand for business intelligence experts has been growing recently. However, as a field, it has been around since the 1980s.

What Is a Business Intelligence Developer?

A business intelligence developer is in charge of generating, organizing, and maintaining business interfaces. These include dashboards, data visualizations, regular and impromptu reports, and data querying tools for users to get the information they require.

The business intelligence developer operates on a single layer of a greater whole. Before the business intelligence developer gets the data, it goes through the ETL (extract, transform, load) process. The whole process consists of three main parts: a data source layer, a warehouse layer, and a reporting layer.

  • The data source layer: The data source layer consists of all the sources of raw data. These include the business’s different databases, cloud operations, logs, and other files that contain data. This is the beginning of the pipeline that the data will go through to reach the end user. A data engineer works with this layer to extract useful information.
  • The warehouse layer: Once the data gets extracted, it is sanitized and transformed into a useful format, then loaded into a central database or data warehouse. The data is loaded in a single place to make it easy to access.
  • The reporting layer: The business intelligence developer lives almost exclusively on this layer. Their main job is to figure out how to pull the data from the warehouse and display it in a meaningful format for end users. They create applications and software that the company’s employees can use to get the most out of the available data.

Much of a business intelligence developer’s work has to do with creating tools for pulling data from the source and then presenting it to relevant parties.

What Does a Business Intelligence Developer Do?

A business intelligence developer’s duties depend on the scope of each project and the size of the company. Sometimes, data engineers and data scientists, who are concerned with building data pipelines and mining data for patterns respectively, might also work on BI projects. 

However, that doesn’t mean business intelligence can simply get bundled with data engineering or data science. A business intelligence developer doesn’t just visualize data and generate reports. They also need to have in-depth industry knowledge. This expertise makes it easier for them to understand what data is important to end users.

Below are some of the responsibilities of a business intelligence developer:

  • Formulating the business requirements for the reporting layer: Business intelligence tools, dashboards, and reports aren’t transferable because they’re specific to each business. They can be drastically different from one company to another. Part of a BI developer’s work is defining the specific needs of their employer and then planning software that meets those exact requirements.
  • Turning business requirements into technical requirements: While it is helpful to gather and document business requirements, they still need to be converted into technical specifications for the development team. A BI developer is responsible for defining the technical aspects of the project, which the data engineer can consider when building the pipeline.
  • Developing, deploying, and maintaining BI tools: The BI developer may do this alone or as part of a larger development team. Ultimately, however, they are responsible for developing, testing, deploying, maintaining, and debugging the interface that will deliver useful information to end users.
  • Assist in database design, data modeling, and curating reports: Reports require information, which comes from the data warehouse. When a user picks certain kinds of information to display on the dashboard, many SQL queries will be made by the software. That means the software needs to recognize the required data, build the right queries, and then send them to the database. 
  • The BI developer, who intimately understands reporting requirements, has to work with data engineers to help design the necessary database tables and models used during querying.
  • Write technical documentation for BI tools: Technical documentation is necessary for any system. The BI developer is in charge of writing exhaustive documentation to help troubleshoot issues with BI tools.

These duties represent just the tip of the iceberg. Business intelligence developers have a host of other responsibilities, including leading and supervising teams, talking to higher-ups, taking feedback from end users, and even deploying AI interfaces to facilitate automated information analysis.

Business Intelligence Certifications

You can also acquire certifications to demonstrate your proficiency with various business intelligence platforms. 

  • ITIL® Foundation Certification
  • CompTIA Project+

Most employers will not require these certifications. However, they may improve your chances of getting hired and show your commitment to your chosen career. 

What Education Does a Business Intelligence Developer Need?

Given the technical skills required for this job, most employers expect applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or some other IT-related field. This course of study will help you learn the technical skills, such as writing SQL code and creating user interfaces, that you need to succeed as a BI developer. Since you will be using this knowledge every day, it is essential to find a quality university where you can build a solid technical foundation for the rest of your career.

Computer Science – B.S.

Problem solvers and math lovers needed! Your task: ...

Problem solvers and math lovers needed! Your...

Problem solvers and math lovers needed! Your task:

Lay the groundwork for the computing breakthroughs that will enable tomorrow's technologies. 

  • Time: 70% of graduates in similar programs finish within 23 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,920 per 6-month term.
  • Transfer: Your previous college coursework and existing certifications may waive course requirements, helping you finish even faster.

You'll have the opportunity to earn these certifications:

  • CompTIA Project+
  • Axelos ITIL Foundation

Professionals who need the skills a computer science degree provides include computer systems analysts, computer programmers, artificial intelligence specialists, software engineers, machine learning engineers, and more.


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A young man and woman are sitting in a computer lab. The woman is helping with a computer project.

What Skills Does a Business Intelligence Developer Need?

Below are some of the skills that can help you excel in this field:

  • Coding, database design, and database management skills: Your education will cover the development of these technical skills.
  • Business acumen: This is specific to the industry you will work in and will mostly come from experience.
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills: These will help you come up with development strategies for creating useful tools that meet the specific needs of your employer.
  • Communication and collaboration skills: BI developers have to work with data engineers and other technical personnel. They also need to communicate with end users who may not have technical knowledge.

These are some of the most important skills a business intelligence developer needs to thrive in this career. Other industry-specific skills may be required, but you can typically get these on the job.

How Much Does a Business Intelligence Developer Make?

$110,140

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes business intelligence developers as software developers. The median annual wage for this group was $110,140 as of May 2020. Those in the top 10% of earners made more than $170,100, while the bottom 10% earned less than $65,210. The exact salary may vary drastically, depending on your educational level, certifications, years of experience, and location.

What is the Projected Job Growth?

22%

Employment opportunities for software developers are expected to grow by 22% from 2019 to 2029. As software continues to be vital throughout the business world, many existing services will get digitized while new digital services spring up. 

More businesses or organizations will also collect data at a large scale, requiring qualified professionals to transform that information into a meaningful format for end users. This trend will increase the need for software developers in general and business intelligence developers in particular.

Where Do Business Intelligence Developers Work?

Varies

Due to the level of data reliance of most modern companies, business intelligence developers can work in a wide variety of industries and organizations.

-E-commerce firms

-Public and private hospitals

-Software-as-a-service companies

-Third-party business intelligence consultancies

-App services, such as ride-sharing, food ordering, and delivery apps

A business intelligence developer can work at any firm with large amounts of business-related data that might be useful if converted into the proper format and presented internally to the right parties.

 

Interested in Becoming a Business Intelligence Developers?

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