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Business intelligence, data architecture jobs still 'hot' despite weak economy

Despite a weak economy, business intelligence and data warehousing-related jobs are still in demand. But job seekers should target opportunities carefully.

While the national unemployment rate continues to inch up, demand for certain data management professionals, including data warehousing pros and business intelligence (BI) analysts, remains high, according to a new report.

Information and data architects, those who design data warehouses and data marts and set organizations' data management and governance policies, are currently one of the two "hottest" types of jobs in the IT industry, according to Forrester Research.

Demand for data architects is high thanks to the continued growth in the type and volume of corporate data. "They define and oversee the organization's approach to shared information and create the enterprise data model and related data artifacts," the report says.

Though not among the hottest, content and data analysts are also much in demand, according to the report. Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester defines content analysts as those who deal largely with unstructured data like text-based content, while data analysts typically handle database-derived structured data.

"For both [content and data analysts], compliance and legal requirements are critical because these roles typically own the legally mandated records management and retention management processes," the report states.

"In addition, these roles deal with processes, technology and vendors at the enterprise level, and individuals with this experience are rare," further fueling demand, according to the report.

Data management jobs feel the economic pinch -- sort of

Matt Mueller, president of Chicago Business Intelligence Group Recruiting and Staffing, agreed that data architecture and analytics jobs are still hot. But he said the softening economy is finally catching up with them, lessening demand, at least to a degree.

"Business intelligence projects tend to be a little bit larger and longer in duration [than other IT initiatives], so companies don't stop them in midstream," Mueller said. "But now, as companies tighten their belts, they're not as eager to start new projects," leading to somewhat lower demand for BI and DW workers.

Still, that doesn't mean job prospects are poor. Mueller estimates that the unemployment rate for BI and data warehousing pros is half the national rate, which stood at 5.7% as of July. Based on his clients' experiences, Mueller said the typical BI or data warehouse-related job search currently lasts around two to three months, as opposed to one to two months or less earlier in the year.

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 The good news for job seekers, he said, is that those companies still hiring BI pros tend to be in a strong position relative to the economy, meaning new hires are likely to join healthy, viable companies.

Mueller says he is seeing increased hiring by healthcare organizations, which are typically not as negatively affected by a drooping stock market as financial services or consumer products companies are. Healthcare organizations also have complex data analytics requirements, he added.

SAP-related data analytics and architecture skills are among the most in demand, he said, as are extract, transform and load (ETL) skills, a point emphasized by the Forrester report as well. "Nearly all large organizations now see the need to integrate information across the entire organization," the report states.

Advice for BI and data warehousing job seekers

With competition increasing thanks to slightly lower demand, Mueller said, BI and data warehousing job applicants should be careful to apply only for jobs that match, or nearly match, their skills, rather than blanketing all data analytics-related job listings. Flooding human resources' in-boxes with resumes could even have a negative impact, he said.

"Organizations looking for a BI reporting manager in a Business Objects environment and you're an ETL developer, that's not going to be a good fit," Mueller said. "But if they're looking for a Business Objects developer and you're a Cognos developer, that would be a relatively easy transition because they're both front-end reporting tools."

As with any job search, networking is key, Mueller said. In fact, it may be even more important for BI and data warehousing job seekers because there are significant differences between "top BI performers and mediocre ones," he said. Any personal connection with a potential employer or recruiter could mean the difference between getting an interview and being passed over for consideration.

Still, Mueller urges job seekers not to be discouraged. "Even though the economy is down and a bit slow, it can still be a good time [for BI and data warehousing job seekers]," he said. "Right now could be a very good time for a BI professional to find an interesting opportunity."

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