Business Intelligence and Performance Management Consultants

Although business intelligence and performance management have long existed as separate fields, Big Data’s growing role in corporate strategizing has caused them to intertwine. Today, business intelligence (BI) consultants examine company data to improve its efficiency, decision making, and overall performance.

More and more businesses have turned to data analytics software to streamline their processes and have hard numbers back up company decisions and goals. However, software itself makes just one piece of the puzzle. Professionals need to understand how to use these tools, including methods for drawing insights, and that’s where a BI consultant comes in. Whether working in house or through a third-party agency, the BI consultant collaborates with a company to establish goals, evaluate existing data, provide business analytics and intelligence software suggestions, establish benchmarks based on the industry, and help develop processes for gathering, analyzing, and utilizing data. In the process, they factor in the growing number of data sources and assist a business with interpreting and utilizing this information.

As a result, business intelligence consultants not only need to have a solid mathematical foundation, but they should be well-versed in an industry’s best practices, particularly for information technology, healthcare, and finance. Within this foundation, BI consultants utilize predictive analytics and machine learning; are familiar with SQL and other database languages and data discovery tools; and know how to convincingly present their findings through data visualization methods.

Why Companies Need Business Intelligence Consultants

In past decades, businesses looked at sales and profits to determine if they were achieving financial goals and factored in industry trends for expansion. Some decisions based on these numbers were sound—while others put the business in the red. Today, however, businesses have access to a multitude of data sources to understand what is and isn’t working. On one hand, such availability allows companies to better plan for the future; on the other, current employees often don’t understand how to interpret and analyze this information or might be using a low-quality, inaccurate, or incomplete data source.

In turn, gut and past trends continue to form business plans, department objectives, and benchmarks. In fact, a 2019 report from Syncsort found that while more businesses are using data analytics technologies throughout their IT efforts, issues with gathering, siloing, and drawing insights have diminished its effect on operational and performance improvements.

In aligning available technologies and data sources with a company’s goals, a business intelligence consultant works to close the gaps:

  • A BI consultant discusses company goals, benchmarks, and tools needed to measure them and works with personnel to implement new software and data collection methods.
  • Because a business might not have data collection and analysis protocols in place, the consultant will collaborate with management and employees to establish new processes and practices.
  • With the new or larger amount of data available, the consultant discusses how this information can shape business decisions and improve performance. In the process, the consultant will transform both structured and unstructured data into actionable insights.

What Does a Business Intelligence Consultant Do?

Too much data ends up being too much of a good thing. Businesses don’t quite know what to do with it, and the numbers themselves are simply that—figures without any clear meaning. Unstructured data, meanwhile, lacks organization and clarity. In turn, this deluge of information needs to be cleaned, organized, and analyzed before experienced professionals draw insights from it. These processes require time and structure. In many cases, effectively utilizing business analytics and intelligence requires a complete organizational overall. Otherwise, all the new technologies get lost, seem too novel, and fall by the wayside.

Business intelligence consultants serve two purposes: helping companies understand these new technologies and then orchestrating the overhaul, so that the numbers and information influence future performance. Once a consultant is on board:

  • they work with management or department heads to understand the company’s issues and pain points and, in the process, look at past performance and business practices;
  • in factoring in the business’s goals and current issues, they’ll recommend all available technologies for extracting, cleaning, and preparing data and explain how these tools can assist with decision making;
  • in examining performance, the BI consultant will further seek out cost-effective methods that will help a business increase its market share.
  • because the amount and types of data sources continue to increase and industries evolve at an equally rapid pace, the BI consultant’s plan considers future events and works with the company to plan for and adapt to these occurrences.

In thinking about these big-picture steps, business intelligence consultants employ several data management and business analytics methods, including data mining, forecasting, and customer segmentation and utilize data visualization to produce a dashboard that illustrates their plan. In the process, they’ll go over:

  • establishing a business’s data structure based on its individual goals or requirements;
  • defining data organization and collection policies and methods;
  • processing and preparing this data for effective analysis;
  • storing and warehousing the data;
  • data validation and quality assurance to anticipate and react to any errors;
  • reporting and visualization strategies in relation to key performance indicators (KPIs), business goals, and industry developments;
  • documenting the strategy to train employees and develop new company processes.

At the same time, BI consultants synthesize business intelligence and analytics with corporate performance management (CPM). Although management professionals use these terms interchangeably in reporting and other business initiatives, all are separate functions that work with and influence each other:

  • Business analytics deliver both current and historical data to identify trends that then shape forecasting efforts. “Analytics” encompasses both the tools used to uncover this information and the insights gleaned from them.
  • Business intelligence is the implementation of business analytics, including gathering, analyzing, and visualizing the data, in terms of company and industry initiatives and competitive analysis. Business intelligence assists with forming company strategy, improving its decisions, and supporting these efforts with KPIs, scorecards, and dashboards.
  • Corporate performance management, sometimes called Enterprise Process Management (EPM) or Business Process Management (BPM), defines how business intelligence is used to measure progress and encompasses BI and data analysis processes, methods, and metrics. CPM ensures you’re capturing the right type of data at precise intervals and appropriately using it to improve various aspects of your business, including customer relationships, supply chain management, finance and budgeting, marketing, and profitability modeling.

Business Intelligence Consultant Skills

Based on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Analysts are expected to see 14% more opportunities between 2018 and 2028, while demand for Operations Research Analysts is predicted to increase 26% over the same period. Growth hinges on multiple overlapping factors: the availability of data, the adoption of new technologies, and the need to move forward in an economical, cost-effective manner.

Neither role is entry level, and professionals considering a career in business intelligence consulting are advised to have earned a bachelor’s degree in business, operations, management, accounting, analytics, computer science, mathematics, or engineering. From here, positions typically require at least five years of relevant experience, if not a Master of Business Administration or a Master of Science in Business Analytics. On top of these requirements, a candidate may want to think about obtaining SAP (Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing) or SAS (Statistical Analysis Software) certification.

Beyond education and work experience, business intelligence professionals should:

  • be familiar with enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications;
  • understand common analysis tools and programs, including R and SPSS;
  • be able to communicate their insights through visualization tools like Tableau and QlikView;
  • be well-versed in SAP Business Intelligence, Oracle BI, QlikSense, Microsoft Power BI, IBM Cognos Analytics, Pentaho, and data mining methods; and
  • have a solid foundation in statistics, structured query language (SQL), and industry best practices concerning data collection, storage, and reporting.

Prepare for a Business Intelligence Consulting Career with an MS in Business Analytics

If you’ve been in a finance or data analysis role and want to take the next step professionally as a business intelligence consultant, increase your knowledge and skill set with a Master of Science in Business Analytics, Wake Forest University’s on-ground degree program. To learn more, request additional information today.