BI Skills are in Demand

Demand for BI skills is outpacing supply and salaries are reacting.

The demand for skilled Business Intelligence developers is outweighing the supply and making it difficult for software companies in this market to find qualified people.

Michael Cipriano, Corporate MIS Director at Interactive Data, struggled for four months to find a qualified developer to fill a senior level technical position. The skills Cipriano was looking for in candidates for the senior Oracle developer role included knowledge of PL/SQL, Oracle customer extensions, Oracle Discoverer and Workflow.

"This is a support role for the role-out of Discoverer. Its the part of our E-Business Suite that allows end users to query data sources without IT intervention. It works well provided you spent the time identifying the views that your [users] want access to—theres a gap here and thats what we want this person to do," said Cipriano, in Bedford, Mass. "Its not been easy."

The reasons for the skilled BI labor shortage vary. Cipriano speculates that post 2001, a rebound in tech spending has spurred many companies to start new investments in technology projects "and delivery means people," he said.

At the same time, with ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] projects "settling down," more IT professionals are able to focus attention elsewhere—particularly BI.

There is also an apparent shortage of training programs to educate new entrants to the field. So hiring managers tend to rely on H-1B Visa workers that are, at the end of the day, temporary workers. Cipriano hired his new BI developer, who is starting in September, from the H-1B pool.


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AMR Research analyst David Kasabian cited a study written by AMR colleagues John Hagerty and Eric Klein that found 18 percent of respondents—the largest percentage by four points—cited a lack of available resources to work on BI projects as the biggest challenge impacting their companys ability to expand the use of BI in their company.

"We expected the cost of software to be one of the biggest barriers to BI and it really turned out to be in the labor category, which is not being able to find the right resources to do the implementations," said Kasabian, in Boston. Those resources are either employees or consultants.


Kasabian and his cohorts found that companies are looking for distinct skill levels when it comes to implementing BI projects: someone who has the strategic vision to set a project in place and manage the project to drive business; and true technicians that can do the physical building of the project based on a tool the company has in place.

That boils down to several key skill sets, including the ability to do report generation, build integrations (particularly Extract, Transform, Load capabilities) and internal project management skills.


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Given the demand for skilled BI workers, the pay is slightly better than average, according to Kasabian.

For its study, titled Market Demand for Business Intelligence and Performance Management 2007, AMR surveyed 206 companies, split fairly evenly between services and manufacturing. Of those looking to implement BI tools, a couple of key areas emerged: production analytics, customer analytics and store analytics on the retail side.

Kasabian expects that over the next six to 12 months the BI labor market will be tight—a factor that is determined, to some extent, by product maturity. For example, SAPs BI 7 product is newer, so its harder to find resources. That said, there are factors that could increase the demand for BI applications, including the commoditization of BI software, spurred in part by Microsofts aggressive (read: relatively cheap) pricing for its BI offerings, and the proliferation of easier-to-use BI tools for the non-technical set. Overall, the labor shortage will eventually even out.

"When people see there is a demand and no supply they will ramp up," said Kasabian. "Over the next couple of years" the talent pool will grow larger.


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