As data-driven processes continue to impact organizations across many industries, Business Intelligence (BI) tools are becoming more important in areas of business and operations.
Despite the growing trend towards self-service BI tools (or perhaps because of it), formal education in this field is becoming more accessible. In addition to collegiate programs resulting in master’s and bachelor’s degrees, one of the most viable means of understanding the basics of discovery tools such as visualizations and dashboards (as well as more advanced concepts of modeling and warehousing) is through certification.
There are many aspects of certification that make it more advantageous to pursue than formal collegiate degrees in BI. Certification typically costs less and requires substantially less time than collegiate degrees, while professionals have the option of becoming certified in the areas of the technology that they utilize the most. Additional benefits include distance learning and scheduling designed to meet the needs of professionals rather than college students.
The three principle sources of certification in BI are from vendors, educational institutions, and professional organizations. Although each of these options has its own distinct advantages, it is worth noting that there are many boons associated with BI certification including:
- Increased job responsibility and accordant pay
- Greater professional mobility and increase likelihood of promotions, higher salaries and benefits packages
- Possible employer-based tuition remission
- Fluency in latest technological developments
- Networking possibilities from meeting and engaging with other certified professionals
Finally, despite the fact that the self-service BI movement is gaining ground, a number of those tools still require configuration provided by IT. Basic knowledge of BI concepts such tools are based on can help professionals produce exactly what they need from various applications, with or without IT support.
Vendor certification is valuable because of the high degree of specificity they allow. Individuals can gain certifications in the technologies that are most relevant to their position or in the specific area in which they desire proficiency. Vendor certification is typically offered for individual components of specific BI and analytics tools available. There are frequently prerequisites for areas of designation, which may require already having earned a certificate in some aspect of the vendor’s technology and having knowledge in the particular area of certification. Certification is typically awarded after taking an exam, although multiple exams may be required for more advanced certifications. Rarely, individuals will need to fulfill requirements based on vendors other than the one they are attempting to become certified from.
For those who do not pass on their first sitting, there may be an allotted timespan (which varies by designation) before they can take the exam again. Most vendors have training materials or sample tests that professionals can use to practice. Certain designations can require continuing education units and additional testing. Most exams require a fee; attaining certification usually results in individuals becoming a member of the vendor’s network of like-minded professionals.
Prominent BI certification vendors include:
- IBM: IBM’s BI and analytics certifications are quite expansive and correlate to products such as Cognos, SPSS, IBM PureSystems, and more. Common roles for certification include those as developers, administrators, and specialists in various aspects of data mining, reporting, warehousing, and others.
- Microsoft: Microsoft offers certificates for BI in its SQL Server Platform and as part of its Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert credential. The latter requires taking examinations in querying, administration, warehousing, modeling, reporting, and design.
- SAS: SAS is well renowned for its BI certificate programs, many of which are offered at the collegiate and university level and which influence the curriculum at certain higher learning institutions. Certification subjects are in areas of advanced analytics, BI, programming, administration, and information management.
- Pentaho: Pentaho offers two exams for certification, the Pentaho Data Integration Exam and the Pentaho Solution Consultant Exam. The former covers aspects of Big Data, ETL (exchange transform and load) operations, clustering and partitioning, while the latter is based on its business analytics platform, reporting and OLAP (online analytical processing). Pentaho offers formal courses in its products to prepare for these exams.
- Oracle: Oracle has a variety of certification options for database and warehousing technologies in BI standards such as querying and reporting.
- SAP: SAP offers certification according to technology or role, and offers online training courses for preparation.
A number of universities and colleges (both two and four year) offer BI certification. Although some programs may be sponsored by a vendor and are slanted towards its specific technologies, most are knowledge based, and vendor and technology neutral. There is frequently a substantial time commitment required for collegiate certification in this field, with students completing abbreviated versions of classes required for degree programs in anywhere from two months to over a year’s time. As such, collegiate certification is typically more in-depth than that provided professional entities or vendors, and serves as a good starting point to pursuing degrees in this field or for individuals looking to transition into the field of BI or analytics.
Certification is generally issued after successful completion of a group project or final exam. Most programs require students to already have a bachelor’s degree and either involve distance learning or an evening class schedule. The curriculums are usually slanted towards professional topics. Tuition is frequently offered on a per credit hour basis. Unlike programs terminating in a degree, there is usually not a graduate-level test required for entrance.
Some of the many educational institutions offering certification in BI and analytics include:
- Villanova: Villanova’s Certified Professional in Business Intelligence is entirely distance-based and takes eight weeks to finish. Students take courses in data management, technology, and architecture.
- University of Denver: The Business Information and Analytics Certificate from Daniels College of Business require students to take four classes that are part of its MBA program curriculum. Class range from those concentrating on health informatics and predictive analytics, and require at least six months of work.
- Southern Methodist University: SMU’s Cox School of Business offers classes in linear programming and optimization, regression models, project planning management, and more for its Graduate Business Analytics Certificate Program. The program takes approximately three months to complete and costs close to $4,000.
- University of Texas: The SAS Institute UT Dallas Graduate Certificate in Business Intelligence and Data Mining has a five-course minimum for certification that focuses on technologies from both SAS and SAP.
- Boston University: BU’s Online Graduate Certificate in Database Management and Business Intelligence requires successfully completing classes in database security, design, management, and data mining.
- Colorado State University: CSU’s Business Intelligence Certificate requires a minimum of two semesters and nine credits. Coursework focuses on data mining, database management, text analytics and business analytics.
Professional Organization Certification
The primary benefit of procuring BI certification from a formal professional organization is the non-partisan approach of the knowledge required, which generally is not related to any single technology, vendor, or other point of bias. As such, the skills demonstrated by certification from a professional organization are generally more transferrable than those from a specific vendor. However, it is usually possible to specialize in some area of BI or data warehousing to demonstrate aptitude in some particular facet of this field. Certification usually lasts for a finite time after which recertification is required, which frequently involves continuing education units or taking another exam.
Virtually the only professional organization to offer certification in BI is the Institute of Computer Certification for Professionals, which partners with The Data Warehousing Institute to provide the Certified Business Intelligence Professional designation. Individuals have to complete three examinations to earn this certificate, two of which are in information systems and data warehousing, while the third provides candidates a choice between business analytics, data integration, leadership and management, and data analysis and design. Candidates have to score better than 50 percent on all three exams to earn certification, while a mastery level requires a score of 70 percent or better on each test. Exams are 90 minutes and have 110 questions.
There are a variety of options for attaining certification in BI and analytics. Vendor certification is a lot more product and technology specific than professional and collegiate certification, both of which provide more general knowledge. Collegiate certification is typically the most expensive option and provides the most comprehensive education, whereas professional certification can be completed most expediently of the three options. All options provide excellent opportunities for networking and increasing one’s experience and knowledge in relevant analytics and BI tools.