Thursday, 13 April 2017 14:32

Embedded BI Changes the Strategic Role of the Business Analyst

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The world of business intelligence (BI) and data analytics has existed for decades; what started as simple Business Analysis reporting in the late 1980s has evolved to today's near real-time querying.

Departments rely on BI to make daily decisions, and at the highest-level organizations turn to BI and data analytics to make strategic business decisions that can dramatically affect a company’s bottom line and future direction.

Business intelligence is going through a transition. Its evolution combined with new capabilities provided by embedded BI empowers Business Analysts to serve a more direct, visible and strategic role in delivering analytics to organizations. As technology evolves to meet new market demands, departmental, and organizational needs, the functionality offered by BI and data analytics is dramatically evolving. This extends to change who manages BI and data analytics.

As organizations mature and become more sophisticated, business leaders realize that mining the data that already exists within the organization affords them opportunities to influence more effective strategic decision making.

With BI innovations, including new features, functions, and end-user capabilities, Business Analysts can also drive efficiencies with more timely data analysis.

BI Use Comes from Disciplines, Departments Across the Organization

Traditionally the information technology (IT) department was responsible for deploying and managing the BI solution, as well as fulfilling requests to produce reports and delivering them to end users, departmental level managers, and the executives who needed them. Once IT deployed the BI solution, the Business Analyst became the intermediary for end users and IT to develop reports and dashboards that met business objectives. Unfortunately, the process to meet user requests for new reports could take weeks.

Beyond serving as the IT and end user-intermediary, the Business Analyst historically had the pivotal role of dictating the processes and developing business systems, so the organization achieved its business goals. The role of the Business Analyst included:

  • defining business needs through detailed functional requirements
  • evaluating potential solutions to business problems
  • analyzing and evaluating business systems and user needs

Evolving Business Analyst Solutions Changing Roles

While the Business Analyst always worked with end users to understand and prioritize business goals and information needs, that role has now evolved to include understanding the analytics methodology for their organization. The Business Analyst translates critical objectives into the key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics.

In many organizations, IT teams are resource constrained – having to do too much with too little, especially time. The evolution of BI hands more responsibilities to end users, who require greater and immediate access to real-time data.

With this shift, the Business Analyst has moved from the role of facilitator or gatekeeper working with the IT department and end users to a more strategic role. Business Analysts can now directly influence how business applications and their outputs are used by organizations to meet specific needs. In our fast-paced world, end users expect much quicker response times, and now the Business Analyst has become responsible for getting them analytics they need in real time.

Today’s Business Analyst is responsible for the following roles:

  • administrating the analytics experience for all users
  • managing data sources and access rights
  • creating and distributing reports, dashboards and data visualizations
  • performing complex analysis and implement change to improve organizational performance.

The Power of BI Today in Form and Function

Solution providers sensing this shift have responded by offering capabilities that make BI more than just a stand-alone platform. They are embedding BI capabilities in their applications to allow for self-service analytics. Available purpose-built embedded BI capabilities are becoming intuitive functions that end users access as part of their daily workflow.

An administrative graphical user interface (GUI) allows the Business Analyst to customize the BI and data analytics functions, enabling them to set up user roles and permissions. Through the GUI, the Business Analyst tailors the user’s analytics for departments and individual users.

The Business Analyst can also define data sources and blend data from multiple sources, other tasks previously handled by IT. Rather than relying on a database administrator (DBA), the GUI allows the Business Analyst to alias data fields as business-friendly terms – making analytics more approachable to the business user, thereby increasing adoption.

A powerful GUI and embedded BI functionality equips end-users with self-service capabilities to produce the reports, visualizations, and dashboards, which previously required engagement from the IT team and Business Analyst. The evolution of BI and organizational changes shift report writing and dashboard creation from the IT team to the end user.

Self-service BI empowers end-users and enables the Business Analyst to work as a true analyst, freeing them to create reports and dashboards to ensure the company follows its business model and makes effective strategic business decisions based on real-time data analysis. The Business Analyst can take learnings gleaned from analytics to better forecast and plan for the effects specific actions might have on the business. This makes the Business Analyst’s role more powerful, helping them play a pivotal role in strategic decision-making.

BI’s Evolution Makes These Skills Important for the Business Analyst

As the amount of analyzable data continues to grow, current and future Business Analysts may want to consider strengthening or adding to their skillset. There is certainly no shortage in the growth of data creation, capture, management, and analysis that will require such skills as:

  • Business Acumen – Understanding the industry and its KPIs to create value for the organization
  • Application Proficiency – Mastering the organization’s business application and its BI solution
  • UX/UI Design – Knowing where users need to utilize analytics within the business application
  • Report and Dashboard Design – Understanding what data and reports are relevant to the end user and utilize their eye for storytelling and knowledge of charting to identify the most appropriate visualizations, tables, and charts to help users find insight
  • Methodology and Business Process – Understanding the processes of the organization to identify opportunities to redesign for improvement and apply analytics to improve operational performance
  • Automate Decision-Making – Analyzing and determining which reports and alerts can be scheduled and automated to move users toward additional data discovery and insight

Embedded BI Aids BUSINESS ANALYST’s Strategic Role

The demand for interactive data has helped BI to evolve from a rigid technology managed by IT to a business requirement. Today’s Business Analyst deals with BI as a business function, not an enabling technology. The continued growth of solutions that empower the end user allows the Business Analyst to further cement their role as a strategic asset for the company. Where the Business Analyst once took on the role of a project manager, embedded self-service BI empowers the Business Analyst to shift that role Business Analyst to strategic analysis.

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Marcus Hodges

Marcus Hodges, project manager at Izenda, a provider of embedded BI and analytics software, uses his experience as a Business Analyst to support his work as a project manager at Izenda. He has managed more than 35 integrations of embedded BI and analytics, managing the integration timeline and onboarding process for each client.

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