The world of BI seems to be largely driven by proficiency in tools that I was stumped during a recent workshop when we were asked to identify BI competencies. The objective of the workshop, conducted by the training wing of my company, was to identify the competencies required for different roles within our practice and also to define 5 levels (Beginner to Expert) for each of the identified competencies.

We were a team of 4 people and started listing down the areas where expertise is required to be a successful BI practice. For the first version we came up with 20 odd competencies ranging from architecture definition to tool expertise to data mining to domain expertise. This was definitely not an elegant proposition considering the fact that for each of the competencies we had to define 5 levels and also create assessment mechanisms for evaluating them. The initial list was far too big for any meaningful competency building and so we decided that we have to fit all this into a maximum of 5 buckets.

After some intense discussions and soul searching, we came up with the final list of BI competencies as given below:

1) BI Platform

2) BI Solutions

3) Data Related

4) Project / Process Management

5) Domain Expertise

BI Platform covers all tool related expertise ranging from working on the tool with guidance to being an industry authority on specific tools (covering ETL, Databases and OLAP)

BI Solutions straddles the spectrum of solutions available out-of-the-box. These solutions can be packages available with system integrators to help jump-start BI implementations at one end (For ex: Hexaware has a strong proprietary solution around HR Analytics) to the other extreme of Packaged analytics provided by major product companies (Examples are: Oracle Peoplesoft EPM, Oracle BI Applications (OBIA), Business Objects Rapid Marts etc.)

Data Related competency has ‘data’ at its epicenter. The levels here range from understanding and writing SQL Queries to Predictive Analytics / Data Mining at the other extreme. We decided to keep this as a separate bucket as this is a very critical one from BI standpoint for nobody else has so much “data” focus than the tribe of BI professionals.

Project Management covers all aspects of managing projects with specific attention to the risks and issues that can crop up during execution of Business Intelligence projects. This area also includes the assimilation and application of software quality process such as CMMI for project execution and Six Sigma for process optimization.

The fifth area was “Domain Expertise”. We decided to keep this as a separate category considering the fact that for BI to be really effective it has to be implemented in the context of that particular industry. The levels here range from being a business analyst with the ability to understand business processes across domains to being a specialist in a particular industry domain.

This list can serve as a litmus paper for all BI Professionals to rate themselves on these competencies and find ways of scaling up across these dimensions.

I found this exercise really interesting and hope the final list is useful for some of you. If you feel that there are other areas that have been missed out, please do share your thoughts.

The team involved in this exercise: Sundar, Pandian, Mohammed Rafi and I. All of us are part of the Business Intelligence and Analytics Practice at Hexaware.

Posted by Karthikeyan Sankaran
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July 8th, 2008

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