How can I build my business and technical skills for a better business intelligence job?

First, you need to focus on specific skill areas to be developed. More important than itemizing what you know is knowing what you don't know.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to build up both their business and technical skills? Are there any strategies you can recommend that might help make this process easier?

Well first, you need to focus on specific skill areas to be developed. More important than itemizing what you know is knowing what you don't know. To guide this process I use a matrix of skill areas and questions, where you can ask yourself things; for example, in the case of business skills, I mapped 13 business domains to eight specific questions. The result is a 104-question survey of the breadth of business knowledge. It has two primary areas – business domains and management frameworks.

For example, in business domains, it has such items as finance, research and development, and of course, customer support.

Within the management frameworks, it has business process management (BPM) and customer relationship management (CRM).Now some of the questions you might ask, for example, are when you are talking about finance, you might say "what are the issues? How is it measured?" These are the types of things that IT needs to be able to understand. When you look at corporate governance, IT needs to be able to say "Who does it within the organization?" and "Why is it done?" If we look at the other side, where business people need to become more IT savvy, I'm looking at a technology stack that starts with hardware and operations at the bottom, and goes on up where at the top we see access and interface. This is the 'people' part of the equation. So one of the questions we might ask ourselves is, for example:

If we're looking at the technologies, we're looking at network systems. The business has to have some sense of what the role of business systems is within the organization. How does it work? What happens if it fails? And how will it impact me? Some other elements there are decision support systems. Who manages it? Who supports it? And definitely the business has to understand what are the risks, what are the issues?

So once you know the specific skill-set area to be developed, you can put together a plan to develop or refine your skills. A well-rounded skills development plan involves elements of research, reading, formal education – either in the classroom or online – and practical experience that can be gained either through job opportunities or volunteer work. And actually, volunteer work is how I started in BI.

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