1st Business Intelligence Software Engineer – Everything about your past and present business situation is recorded as bits of data. Marketing numbers, human resources, corporate budget, sales volumes – you name it. The number of business domains the data comes from can be huge. But, as a business, you may be interested in extracting value from this information rather than collecting it. Thank goodness there is software for everything.
Business Intelligence (BI) is a set of technologies and practices for transforming business information into actionable reports and visualizations. It was established in the early 80s and has evolved over time as a diverse industry, with many roles and professions. We have already explained the role of an ETL developer. This material describes the basic BI data infrastructure features, so we recommend you read it to get a deeper understanding of the topic.
1st Business Intelligence Software Engineer
Today we will discuss the role of a BI developer, their typical responsibilities, background and required skills. We will also explain the difference between the other standard roles involved in building BI systems and the specific cases that require you to hire a BI developer.
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A business intelligence developer is an engineer responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining BI interfaces. These include query tools, data visualization and interactive dashboards, ad hoc reporting, and data modeling tools. But, when we talk about business intelligence, we need to give a strict definition of this technological concept.
The entire BI system can be divided into the internal part and the actual user interface to interact with the data. Why is this classification so important? Regardless of system complexity, a typical BI platform has 3 layers: a data source layer, a warehouse layer, and a reporting layer. Let’s break them down:
Is where the raw data is stored. It’s one of your databases, cloud storage, and separate files filled with unstructured data. Data sources are the starting points of any BI system because they are connected to all the underlying data integration tools, storage and business intelligence UI.
It includes all the technologies that facilitate the storage process. These two are unified storage for all enterprise data and tools that do Extract, Transform and Load (ETL). Data is transferred to a single database for several reasons:
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Therefore, the data source and warehouse layers are considered as a basic infrastructure of the BI system. Building and maintaining it is the area of responsibility for database/ETL developers and data analysts/engineers.
Is the endpoint for the data. This layer is the true BI interface that allows users to access data, pull it from a repository for analysis. Analytics capabilities may vary depending on the business needs for a system. But in the most basic scenario, it’s simple SQL queries and data visualization tools.
Each piece of software that makes up the reporting layer is the responsibility of a business intelligence developer. As part of a business intelligence project, a BI developer takes on engineering, management, and strategic planning responsibilities. Therefore, this person can be both the project leader and/or the executor.
Now that we have defined the place of a BI developer in the context of the entire BI platform, let’s look at the responsibilities of this person.
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The scope of the project determines the level of engagement for a given role, as engineers with similar technology stocks and domain knowledge can be substituted. Developing BI interfaces requires deep experience in software engineering, databases and data analysis. Therefore, in part, data engineers who have a background and experience in software development with BI can lead the interface development process.
However, business intelligence tools may perform many industry-specific functions. BI developers are also aware of the specifics of the business domain: This allows them to understand business needs, implement the right data models, and data representation solutions. Therefore, the BI developer’s responsibilities are:
Business intelligence always depends on the actual business area and the needs of a particular organization with data analysis. This means that BI tools can be completely different from company to company. Let’s imagine that there are two projects:
In both cases, the final product will be a BI platform. But, in the first case, it will require more advanced options for data analysis, because there are simply more parameters to be analyzed. The data itself may require image recognition, as it can be given in any form such as x-ray, MRI, or ultrasound.
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It is this difference in understanding the business requirements for the platform that a BI developer must be aware of. Because they will manage the number of reporting entities, its forms, and additional functions.
After the business requirements are gathered and documented, a number of data engineers / ETL / front-end developers are responsible for translating them into technical tasks. In this case a BI developer is responsible for defining tasks that include a user interface and reporting capabilities. To be more specific, a BI developer will determine if a user interface needs to be an interactive dashboard with a drag & drop interface, or a set of fields filled with data attributes, if a system needs data visualizations and what a user will look like. contact her as well.
All those decisions will translate into real tasks for the ETL development team, and the BI (front- and back-end) team. The development phase can also be controlled by a project manager or a BI developer.
As mentioned, a BI developer can perform a technical lead role within the development team, or can share the tasks of actual developers. But a BI developer can make strategic decisions about developing software and manage the entire process with its deployment. Trial and error in the pre/post launch phases may also be a BI developer’s responsibility.
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Reporting is a different task that does not concern engineering so much, but rather working with databases and data models. Using a BI interface, users query the database to retrieve certain information. This information is then generated by the specified features in a visual form (say, a pie chart), or a textual summary.
When a user configures what to download and how to format it, the software is responsible for finding this information and identifying the necessary data. This can be done with the help of a data model – a structure that stores data in the database.
Data models are defined and applied to the database by data analysts and ETL developers. But, a BI developer is the one who provides the reporting needs, so it will be a determining factor for a future model. These models represent the objects in the database and the relationships between them, so it will determine how the data can be queried. And that’s part of the skill set of a BI developer.
Logically, a BI developer will also check how the data is queried, whether it is valid, and how the report works.
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There are many approaches to building a unified storage for all corporate information. We have discussed these approaches in a dedicated article on repositories. While the architectural style of a data warehouse does not directly affect the report, a BI developer may be involved in the design process.
This point is related to the previous point. A BI developer can be involved in documenting the data structure of a repository, as well as meta-data (additional information about the data). This document will be used during the development process and will help to make decisions about the required reporting options.
Every system needs technical documentation. While a BI developer will not introduce users to the platform, and show how to use it, he is responsible for providing guidance as a document. This document is intended for general and technical users. employees, for example. API documentation, known technical issues, etc.
The skills of BI developers can vary by project. In some cases, a BI developer can have minimal interaction with software engineering and work as a SQL expert to provide the right query. But for the sake of a complete description, we will list all possible skills associated with typical responsibilities.
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Experience with BI tools. First of all, every BI developer must have experience in developing customer BI products or configuring existing ones. In the case of building a custom BI product, knowledge of Python, scripting languages, and experience with data visualization libraries is mandatory. A solid understanding of all underlying infrastructure is also required: This includes an understanding of data integration tools, ETL/ELT processes, data formatting, and repository architecture.
If we talk about a product that uses a BI solution by a vendor, then a BI developer needs to be familiar with its related technology stack. These depend on the vendor, but the most popular solutions related to data pipelines, reports and database operations are Amazon products (such as QuickSight), the Hadoop platform, or Apache technologies (such as Apache Superset).
DB / DBA background. The main reason a BI developer should have experience dealing with databases is that the main concern is SQL / noSQL queries. BI systems often need to deal with databases, data models, or distribution of data across multiple databases.
BI developers can also be involved in designing and building tools for online analytical processing (OLAP cubes). This is an advanced option for multivariate analysis using non-relational databases.
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Background in data analysis. While it is not necessary to have a BI developer
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