Many of you are currently writing your thesis and will graduate at the end of this semester. After years of studying, everyone will start their career in a great variety of companies, industries, and positions such as business analysts, management consultants, supply chain planners, and many more.
One thing many of these positions have in common is the growing rate of IT related activities as a consequence of this era of digital transformation. It could be that some of you already have build up an interest in IT, or it is also possible that for some of you it is still unclear how business and IT relate in the real workfield. That is why, for this weeks’ article, we spoke with a junior Business Intelligence consultant for a quick insight into the world of IT advisory.
Please meet.. Mitchell Beekink
Q: Hi Mitchell, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions regarding IT and advisory. But first, let’s meet you..
A: “Sure, no problem. Happy to do so. My name is Mitchell Beekink and I have a BSc. in Economics and Business Economics from the University of Utrecht and received my master’s degree in Information Management from Tilburg University. During my study period I worked in various positions at Rabobank Nederland. For example, I helped clients regarding their investments as an ‘Orderlijn Agent’ and I worked as an Analyst Sanctions for a few years (which was part of the Financial Economic Crime / FEC unit at that time). After graduating I travelled through South-East Asia and Australia for one year, since, of course, this is not something you would do when you start a full-time job.”
Q: All right. And what is your current employer and which position do you hold?
A: “I am currently working at Just-BI as a junior BI Consultant via ITrainee. ITrainee is the organization where I finished an IT traineeship. I expect that I will get a permanent contract at Just-BI at the end of this year.”
Q: So, what was your motivation for the choice to start working on the intersection of IT and Business?
A: “I was always interested in IT. I remember already doing some programming in high school where some friends and I programmed a version of Game of the Goose. However, I chose to study Economics/Business as a bachelor. In that way, in my opinion, I had a more broad bases for the future. Working as a BI consultant is a perfect way to combine my economics/business knowledge with my more technical skills (programming for instance). Furthermore, I am certain that everyone that has some knowledge of IT has an advantage, since ‘classic’ labor continues to be more intertwined with IT.”
Q: What was your main reason to choose for consultancy within this workfield?
A: “After working for one employer for a few years (Rabobank Nederland), I actually wanted to experience what it would be like to work for multiple companies. During my travelling I noticed that I felt very comfortable and happy in dynamic situations: continuously meeting new people and visiting new places. Afterwards I started to connect that realization with consultancy, since, in my opinion, it is an environment that is highly dynamic in a similar way.”
Q: Okay, that indeed makes sense. Let’s continue on your current occupation. What exactly is Business Intelligence and why, in your opinion, is it relevant to an organization?
A: “Well, a short search in Google will give some various definitions and advantages for the use of BI. And many of these definition accurately capture BI. But to give you one, which I stand by 100% is: “The goal of Business Intelligence (BI) is to transform the currently available data in your organization into usable information in order to improve the control of processes in your organization. More effective, more efficient, better, and faster decision making are some of the most important advantages of Business Intelligence.”
Q: All right, and in what way is BI related to a firm’s strategy?
A: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but in my opinion a strategy is an organization’s long term plan to achieve a certain goal, or goals. BI gives you the ability to acquire insights in the underlying processes that are essential for making these goals. For instance, BI allows you to ‘zoom’ in to a very detailed process in your organization, say for instance the performance of one specific production machine. Or you can ‘zoom’ out to a more wider view of the organization and compare the performance of various departments of your organizations. This insight shows you which parts of the organization runs smoothly, and also, maybe even more important, which parts do not. BI allows you to identify these parts, so the organization can make adjustments and still be on track to achieve their long term or strategic goals.”
Q: What kind of organizations do you advise?
A: “In more general words, at Just-BI we advise everyone that needs BI solutions. At this point, these are mainly large corporations such as Royal Dutch Shell, Jacobs Douwe Egberts and Nike. But we also advise public institutions such as the University of Amsterdam. We even advise farmers and growers with ‘Smart Farming’.”
Q: How does a typical advisory project with a client take place?
“A project with a BI solution can be very diverse and the way and shape at which it is implemented depends on the client. But, in general, we start with mapping the needs. To do so accurately, we organize multiple workshops with different stakeholders to identify all the requirements for the final product. When the requirements and a client’s available budget are aligned, we can begin building the final product. And this product can vary from a fairly simple and clear dashboard or report until the implementation of new software.
When the final product is build, it needs to be tested by one or more end-users (also called User Acceptance Test/UAT). These UATs usually result in some modifications of the product. With large projects, this cycle of development and testing is repeated multiple times. The final product will only be delivered if all the parties involved are satisfied. A popular method to this process is Agile.
The delivery of the final product is usually paired with some added services. For example, we train final users on all the capabilities of the new system and/or we transfer our knowledge to the IT departments of the client so they can take over the maintenance.”
Q: What are, in your view, the most impactful trends and developments within BI (Consulting)?
“BI has experienced a lot of development in the last few years and will continue to do so in the coming decade. It is quite difficult to name all of the trends and developments in BI these days, but for me personally, the following are most likely to have a huge impact:
- The possibility to analyse large amount of real-time data
- The cloud-transformation. Companies are generally replacing own hardware and/or software with leasing hardware/software from large techgiants such as Amazon, Microsoft or SAP.
- The continuously growing influence of Advanced Data Analytics in BI. With Advanced Data Analytics I mean the advanced techniques such as text analytics and spatial analytics.
- The rise of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Q: What is your view of the future of BI?
A: “I predict that the BI will continue to become more relevant. Digital transformation will continue no matter what. This means organizations are going to produce a whole lot more data which needs to be transformed into usable information to keep track of their strategic goals. And the further mixing of Advanced Data Analytics and BI will result in a higher demand for BI consultants.”
Q: Do you have any tips for students that have the ambition to work in BI/IT consultancy?
“Some knowledge of SQL always comes in handy. And it is quite easy to find free tutorials/courses to learn it (YouTube for example). It is also good to have some knowledge about Excel VBA (click here for link). Especially if you operate more on the business side.
And if your not really sure if working in IT is something that you would like or you are just interested to find out what it is like to code, I can advise you to try this free VBA course from Home and Learn. The only thing you need is Microsoft Excel.”
I hope this quick insight into the world of IT and consulting clarified, to some extent, what it would be like working in this particular field of interest. Perhaps it confirmed that your ambitions, interest and/or talents lie somewhere else. Both outcomes are of course equally important.
Best of luck with writing your thesis!