Forrester Says BI, Analytics Offers Huge Upside for IT Careers
Forrester’s latest enterprise BI survey finds interest in BI / analytics projects is skyrocketing. The trends signals big career opportunities in BI / analytics for IT integration, software and data architects. A top Forrester analyst shares five top reasons BI will be a powerful career move for IT professionals.
Forrester’s latest enterprise BI survey finds interest is skyrocketing. Organizations say they want BI to be more agile to meet changing needs of business users.
These trends, according to Boris Evelson, Forrester vice president and principal analyst, suggest a huge career upside for IT integration, software and data architects who are willing to learn more about business intelligence and analytics.
While some skills, like SOA, mashups and data management will give IT professionals a running start in their leap to BI careers, those skills are simply not enough, Evelson told IDN.
“Working with SOA, or on middleware, portals or even DBAs working with all sorts of data problems is a start, but won’t give [IT] the skills they need to become a truly valued BI professional,” Evelson said. “I really think these IT [professionals] need to get more exposed to BI projects, learn what specific skills will be most valued, and then move up the ranks.”
Even those IT professionals who’ve worked with dashboards and databases could use an extra dose of BI-specific training, Evelson added.
The Forrester BI Findings:
Senior Manager’s Big BI Buy-in
One of the biggest incentives for IT professionals to learn more about BI comes from the simple fact that Forrester’s BI Maturity in the Enterprise report found a growing executive buy-in for investing in BI projects.
In part, Forrester’s BI Maturity report found, “Senior enterprise managers recognize the importance of BI and view it not just as a reporting application, but as a major competitive differentiator for the enterprise. There’s a strong top-down mandate to build and continuously improve BI infrastructure and applications.”
The BI Maturity report is based on interviews with 173 technology professionals familiar with their companies’ BI projects.
Respondents also told Forrester their organizations need to get better at many of the core aspects of BI. These aspects include: collaboration, change management, communications and best practices.
“IT support is crucial for many BI projects,” Evelson told IDN. “In fact, even though BI is often seen as a business initiative, it is up to IT to work with tools and technologies to get reports, dashboards and data sources all working together for effective BI.”
5 Reasons Why BI/Analytics is a
Top Opportunity for IT Professionals
In a conversation with IDN, Evelson shared five top reasons for IT professionals to add BI / analytics skills to their resumes.
- Bigger Piece of the Budget Pie – BI and analytics are areas poised for what Evelson called “continuing growth” in IT investment.
- Not Easily Outsourced – BI’s data gathering, number crunching, analytics and presentation technologies all need to mesh with the needs of the business. “This alignment is not something that can easily be outsourced,” Evelson said.
- Face-to-Face Collaboration – BI and analytics will require face-to-face collaboration between company managers, business analysts, business users, and various IT disciplines, Evelson added. “Successful BI for the next several years will be all about collaborating across [IT and non-IT teams] to figure out what works, what doesn’t work for the company,” he said.
- Ongoing Iterations – BI projects need to be modified on an on-going, even a frequent, basis. Support for new datasets and new user dashboards and reporting continue to push BI project requirements.
- BI Hiring Up Dramaticall – Large companies IBM, Microsoft, SAS and system integrator Deloitte “are hiring BI guys left and right,” Evelson said. IBM alone announced its new BI-specific services unit will double from 4,000 to 8,000 in just a year or two.
Why BI is NOT Just Another Enterprise App
Evelson makes another point in distinguishing BI from all other enterprise applications, even sophisticated ERP systems.
“Let’s say you are building an ERP or trading system. The IT department still goes through the traditional software approaches (e.g. collect the requirements, build specifications, design and test, change when necessary, implement and train). In the end, these large enterprise applications, for the most part, will offer major functionality and usefulness for 18 months after deployment, and even longer.
“But, in BI, nothing can be further from the truth,” Evelson said. “BI is unlike any other enterprise application.”
The reason: “The need for new users to access new types of information is always changing,” he explained. “And, I’ve often seen that by the time a BI project gets rolled out today, it can already be too late – the requirements may have changed.”
Evelson points out two key traits of BI vis-à-vis other enterprise applications:
- BI requires “so many components” to be put together. “Users will no doubt want to integrate current reports with portals, alerts, email and so on,” Evelson said. “And that kind of work can require integration of 10 components or more.” The result: “Even a tiny change in a user request or adding new datasets can mushroom a project.”
- It is “virtually impossible” for anyone (from IT or the business) to define all the requirements up front. “Even if I think I have all my requirements nailed down for a specific project, the whole thing can be outdated in 24 hours. I’ve seen it happen,” Evelson told IDN. He also points out the age-old problem of lining up a COO’s vision of a project with that from the IT perspective. “Just because COOs say they want a certain kind of information, it’s not always clear exactly how many datasets are required to paint that picture. Where is all the data located? Can I get timely access to it all?, etc.”
Next Steps for IT Pro’s Looking at BI
Evelson cautions IT professionals looking to add BI skills to their resumes to not simply count on learning new tools.
“Automated BI tools are getting better all the time, but today they won’t always fill in the skills gap,” Evelson told IDN. “BI does offer some terrific tools, but it also requires special skills, such as designing and working with analytical databases or multi-dimensional databases. The tools are becoming more automated, but we’re not there just yet.”
Some IT and data architects will be able to leverage skills with data integration, data cleansing, MDM and data warehousing.
However, to make a true career impact, Evelson advised IT professionals to learn some of the new emerging BI technology, such as in-memory analytics, mobile BI, non-relational databases, data retrieval from non-traditional data sources (POS terminals, instrumented devices, unstructured data from social networks, and so on), data correlation techniques, even hybrid approaches to using cloud, on-premise and available data subscription services.
In short, Evelson puts the BI career opportunity on a par with a company’s competitive opportunities. “BI, for companies and for individuals, could be one of the last frontiers for competitive differentiation,” Evelson told IDN.
Many IT components have been commoditized (or soon will be), he said, including websites, ecommerce, integration, databases, storage. “But, one aspect that cannot be easily commoditized will be how a business competes, and BI is very much about that competitiveness, which is what will make it very valuable.”