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The Job of a Business Intelligence Consultant

In this month's career insights edition, we take a look at the role of a Business Intelligence Consultant. Read on to find out the skills they require, average salary, and how suitable this role is to a freelance career.

What does a Business Intelligence Consultant do?

In our career insights series, we regularly deliver an in-depth analysis on different types of jobs, usually ones that are especially dynamic and suitable for freelancer.

Today, we’ll be setting our eye on Business Intelligence Consultants, also known as BI consultants. First, we’ll be doing a short job description, then taking a look at the most valuable skills for a BI consultant.

You’ll also learn what kind of salary you can expect, among other interesting aspects.

What is Business Intelligence?

Business Intelligence is a technology-driven process that gathers, analyzes and explains data in an easy-to-understand visual manner. It’s about the big picture – measuring processes and their outcomes inside and outside the company and. Nowadays, it is easier than ever to collect data and there is truly a plethora of tools that enable easy visualization. That plus the trend of big data that has pushed many businesses to do more BI analysis means that consultants in that sphere are hot ware right now. Here are the most important skills you’ll need:

Tech Skills for a Business Intelligence Consultant

1. Understanding data and statistics

Tools are extremely important to BI analysis and we’ll get to them in a second. But they will only get you so far if you don’t understand where the data is coming from and what is representing. So first and foremost, you’ll need some background in statistics. “A fool with a tool is still a fool” is a saying I’ve heard a couple of times in relation to BI and it couldn’t be more true.

Statistics can be a tough field to enter, but if you have a background in mathematics or science, you probably already know the basics without realizing it.

2. Analysis tools

There are many different tools you can use a BI consultant. The first layer, and the most complicated one, will include looking at data sets and making sure what’s in them makes sense. There is a number of tools for that, but two of them stand out:

- R is an extremely popular tool, used by statisticians, scientists and consultants alike. There are tons of tutorials and scripts to help you along, many of them built into R itself. Even better, this tool is open-source and completely free. R comes with an awesome community willing to help its newer members. However, it has many functions and if you haven’t used a similar tool it will be daunting at first.

- SPSS is quite similar to R, allowing you to analyze data in pretty much any way imaginable. Its advantages are that it is more popular in the business world and also more user-friendly. However, it comes with a cost – literally. SPSS is an expensive tool, but it can be worth it, especially given that most companies will be providing you with a license.

3. Visualization tools

You can visualize with R and SPSS, but there are better tools for that. Depending on whether or not you want to focus on SAP (in which case stick with it exclusively), there are two main alternatives:

- Tableau has pretty much become synonymous with data analysis and visualization. It’s a great tool used worldwide because of its great mix of simplicity and power. If you have data that is already checked, cleaned up and ready to be analyzed, simply feeding it into Tableau will provide you with results in almost an instant.

- QlikView is similar to Tableau, in the way that it also provides ways to visualize data, but there are some key differences. It has an integrated BI platform and comes bundles with demos, training manuals and many tutorials, which will help you understand some of the more advanced functions quickly. However, it isn’t as intuitive as Tableau at first.

Similar/related job titles to BI Consultants

BI consultants have become so popular nowadays that there has been a lot of job titles that are related to the field, but either focus on specific tools or focus on either analysis or visualization. Here are some of the more common ones:
- BI Analyst
- BI Developer
- Oracle BI Consultant
- SAP BI Consultant
- BI Lead Data consultant
- Functional Consultant

How much will you get as a BI consultant?

As we mentioned in the intro, BI consultants are highly sought-after at the moment. Additionally, there are a number of skills a successful BI consultant needs. Statistical knowledge plus the right usage of tools plus the way to communicate equals a lot of required expertise. Because of that, you can expect a very good salary.

According to Glassdoor, the national annual average in the USA is about 84,000 USD, with the opportunity to reach 120,000 USD with the right skillset. As always with salary numbers, remember that they differ greatly between countries and sometimes even cities. So if you want to get a better estimate of what you could be earning as BI consultant, visit those two sites and do a search with your preferred location.

Freelance suitability for BI experts

BI consulting is an excellent field for freelancers. Most small to mid-level companies don’t have their own BI consultants on board or just want to hire one for a specific projects. Due to this, almost all companies work with external consultants. And while there are firms that have specialized in providing those, freelancers are still in a good position to find clients provided they have the right skillset and experience to back it up.

Are you thinking about becoming a BI consultant or have you even already entered the field? We would love to hear your feedback in the comment section below this article!
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