Ryan Naude (Entelect General Manager: Data Solutions)
BI developers, previously considered generalists, are becoming the 'intelligence engineers' of many organisations
Have you considered who has the most insight into your business? The CEO, CIO, or perhaps the CFO? After all, these are the people making the biggest decisions about the business. They are presented with all the necessary information to make strategic business decisions. Right? Not necessarily.
Actually, the people with the greatest insight are a little bit lower down the food chain. They are the Business Intelligence (BI) developer. The reality is that we may not have considered the BI developer because for many years, these people have been left in situations where they are always playing catch up with organisational changes. It was almost a reverse-fit; the organisation uses existing data insights to make a financial decision on how to improve efficiencies, then the BI developer goes in to engineer the support system around that.
It’s been an interesting journey for BI developers. When SQL was launched in 2005, the only conceivable approach, given the richness of each the feature tools in the BI stack, was a collection of specialists. Then came the next generation of BI developers; the generalists. Those guys who knew enough to be able to support, maintain, and occasionally, enhance the solution implemented by the specialists.
But things have changed, significantly. BI developers (previously the ‘generalists’), have now acquired something that no one else in the business has; a unique and holistic view of the business systems and the business processes. In fact, at a mid- management level (and because of the nature of their role), these developers have a unique perspective and access to data at virtually all levels of the organisation and across all functional areas.
I often refer to them as the 'Miss congeniality' of organisations. They have typically been in the organisation for a long time, had contact with almost all departments and are well liked by everyone. The result is that as a BI Developer, they have the capacity to inform and influence strategic business decisions. They are becoming the ‘Intelligence Engineers’ of organisations. Spending less time on technical work and far more on data discovery, predicting trends, understanding influencers and advising businesses on solutions to problems they never knew they had.
BI developers should be treated like gold and nurtured. They have so much intelligence at their fingertips. Losing this when a BI developer looks for greener pastures, or more challenging opportunities, could significantly damage your market position. Maybe not next month, but certainly before the next BI developer has got his or her feet under the table.
Consider retention strategies, make sure they are specific to the resource needs and growth opportunities. BI developers should have business critical skills, domain knowledge across industries and business silos. Even ownership in the business.
The reality is that if these guys leave, they leave with an exceptional amount of knowledge about your business. So don’t let them become the Intelligence Engineer of another organisation.