In-house BI Teams - Part 1 : Why you should consider joining an In-house BI team?

Are you tired of working as an external and researching for reasons to switch to an in-house BI team? Or are you in a situation where you have to choose between an IT consulting/services company position and an in-house BI team position for the next step in your career? Or just curious to know how it is to work in an in-house BI team? Irrespective of the reasons, I hope that the content in this part 1 of the in-house BI teams multi-part article provides you a well-rounded perspective about the topic and probably even triggers your interest to be a part of it.

As there are various definitions for BI and confusions around it, it’s important that we clearly state what we mean by BI to ensure we are all on the same page before we start comparing how it is to work in an in-house BI team vs as an external.

Business Intelligence

In simple words BI (Business Intelligence) is all about deriving information and insight from data efficiently at scale to enable fact-based decision making in order to improve the business.
Business Intelligence
BI Team Roles

What are the different roles in BI teams? From the above figure it is quite evident that BI is an iterative process from data to information to insight to business improvement to better profits. In general, any person involved in the path from transforming data to insight is a BI professional. So as you can imagine there are quite a few roles in an BI team, for example, ETL developer, Business Analyst, Report Developer, Tester, Data Analyst, Data modeler, Architect, Manager, etc.

External vs In-house BI team member

It would be very difficult to draw specific comparisons in a short article like this one between working as an external and working as an in-house BI team member because there are so many different roles in BI, and there are different size companies, and even within same size companies they operate differently (example onsite vs offsite). So what I attempted here (below table) is to provide a generic comparison in which most points are true for most of the BI roles for most of the companies implying that all points are not necessarily true for all of the BI roles for all of the companies. 

External : A permanent employee in an IT consulting and services company that has tens or hundreds if not thousands of people with BI skills and works at client locations or offsite locations.

In-house BI team member : Permanent employee in a company and working in a BI team.

In-house BI team member
Industry Knowledge
You gather knowledge about various industries/domains and you have/develop wide knowledge.  
You are mostly limited to the industry/domain that you work in but have/develop in depth knowledge in that industry.
BI Tech Stack
As you are there usually to fill a temporary gap, unless you are at the starting phase of the BI program  you probably don’t have a chance to change/influence the BI tech stack.

You have a  chance to work on wide variety of tools and technologies. As you change tools often you don’t become an expert in one.

You may have to at times work on a lower version of a tool than you have used before because that is what the client has.
As you are there for good, you have more chances of changing/influencing  the BI tech stack.

You are limited to the tech stack within the company. As you work on the same tool for longer duration you become an expert in that tool.  

You usually transition from lower versions to a higher of the tech stack and don’t go back to lower versions.
Focus is on implementing new technology and tools irrespective of whether it is required or not.

You tend to expect BI to solve all  business challenges including those that should ideally be solved by  fixing the business processes.

You are tuned to make everything into a project and driven to get more revenue from client.

You can get caught up in buzzwords.

Even if you are not the expert you are considered as the expert.

Because you are committed only for a short term. You don’t consider much about the issues that may arise after project completion.

You are project focused.
Focus is on the business, and you understand technology is to support the business.

You try to fix non technology issues by raising it with the right teams.

You look for cost-efficient and quick-win solutions that creates value to business.

You are generally not caught up in buzzwords.

Even if you are an expert you may be overlooked if you don’t showcase your expertise.

Because you have long-term commitment you ensure that best practices are applied, because you know that you will suffer if you use short cuts or reputation is at stake.

You are product focused.
Access to technical knowledge and support
Lot of support available in the form of COE (Center of Excellence) focused on various BI technologies and tools, access to mentors, experienced leaders, peers, access to knowledge articles, tried and tested processes, and frameworks.

Up to date with latest technologies and tools.

Access to quite a lot of trainings in the BI space.

Support is very limited and is generally limited to the technologies and tools used within the company. Not much framework or processes are maintained. Difficult to get technology mentors.
Usually only up to date with tools and technologies used within the company. It is difficult to keep up with BI  trends, you need to keep learning on your own and bring in the latest, attend conferences, events, read articles, etc., else you will miss out on latest technologies and tools.

BI trainings within the companies are rather limited. The speed with which new technologies and tools emerge in BI is very high. So external training is a must.  
Career path
You continue  in the technology path unless you change direction.

You adapt to different roles based on project and client requirements.

You cannot stick to a particular industry or technology or role, you have to take up roles ranging from ETL developer, report developer, data modeler, project manager based on project requirement.
You could transition to the business side

You continue to work in the same role for a longer duration.

You have chance to become an expert in a tool or technology or domain.
If it is fixed price projects then you get less time and focus to automate, unless automation is a mandatory requirement. In T&M projects if operations is not covered by your company then you look for automation.
You always look for automation. This is considered as an implicit requirement.
Impact & Value
Generally you can make only smaller impact.

Most often you don't get to see the value of the project you have delivered because you move on to the next project or client.
You can take up larger initiatives, drive bigger changes and you can see the value or benefits  of the work you have delivered. In management positions you can shape the organization beyond BI teams too.
Trust level is quite low, i.e. the trust levels of the employees on the client side on you. Company information, even those that you need to do your job, is not so freely shared with you. Makes it difficult to achieve milestones.  

Takes time to build trust and most often you move to different client by then.
Trust level is very high. You have access to most of the information that you need to do your job. Information is shared freely. Thereby enabling you to accomplish tasks quicker.

High levels of trust from day 1.
You lack clarity in company objectives and strategy. In general less understanding of the business and less aligned. Could end up creating redundant solutions across departments.  

You do not have good understanding of the business, by the time you get to know the business well you are moved to the next project.  You do not have clear understanding of what a particular metric means to the company.
You have better understanding about company objectives and strategy and therefore  more aligned to business.

Better knowledge of products offered by the company. You can understand what a particular metric means to the company. You know the products, people and processes in the company.
Work-life balance
Poor work-life balance.

Difficult to plan vacations months in advance.

Most often you need to stretch beyond normal working hours and days to cover for the wrong estimations usually provided by others to avoid penalties and complications..
There is absolutely no time to do anything else because you work for client and also your employer, leaving you totally drained out end of the day.

Time wasted on unproductive yet unavoidable tasks like double time tracking, negotiating with client about effort estimations, arguments about which is bug and which is change request, etc.

Mostly required to travel to client locations or work for months/years  at client locations.

You usually cannot figure out a best way to work because each client is different.
Better work-life balance.

Can plan vacations several months in advance if not a  year in advance.

Unless there are unplanned critical situations you are expected to work only during normal working hours/days. Work is planned better and most often you are involved in effort estimation and planning.  

There is time to do something outside of work, relax and recharge and thereby increasing productivity at work.

Less time spent on unproductive tasks. More time spent on accomplishing real stuff.

In most roles there is not much need to travel.

Over a period of time  you will figure out the best way to work.

Where to find in-house BI teams ?

Until some years ago it was only the big companies that could afford implementing a BI solution. However, this has changed in the recent years, now even mid-sized companies have the possibility to implement BI solutions. This change can be attributed to mainly 3 factors ; 1) Cloud Offerings 2) Open Source & Free BI Software and 3) Competition. So, now in most companies we can find in-house BI teams. In case I have managed to trigger interest in you to join an in-house BI team, search in any of the company websites or for matching and interesting jobs in BI. 

In the next part of the article I will cover the topic of why it makes sense for companies to have in-house BI teams. In that we will look at the company perspective and not employee perspective.


  1. I'd like to join in your Business Intelligence team. That is the procedure?

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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