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Survey: BI and big data professionals ahead of peers on pay

Employees who have BI and big data jobs are feeling pretty good about them, according to TechTarget's 2015 salary survey. High pay and strong job prospects are a couple reasons why.

These days, Dennis Dushek is feeling satisfied with his job. The business systems analyst at linen and uniform rental company Bay Towel in Green Bay, Wis., said management takes his recommendations seriously, and workers in sales, accounting and other departments value the reports he creates for them. "There's a lot of looking for optimistic projects and results," Dushek said. "We're not just fighting fires. We're able to plan for the future."

Dushek isn't alone in his optimism. According to Tech Target's 2015 Annual IT Salary and Careers Survey, business intelligence and big data professionals are relatively upbeat about both their current jobs and their prospects for the future -- and there are plenty of reasons why.

Results show that the average base salary for the 114 survey respondents who said they primarily focus on BI and big data initiatives was $120,446; that's 20% higher than the average of $100,333 for all 1,548 respondents who reported their salaries. When bonuses are factored in, the average total compensation for the BI and big data respondents rose to $136,282 -- 25% more than the overall figure of $110,724.

Fifty-three percent of the respondents in the BI and big data category said they received a raise this year, and 45% got a bonus. Looking ahead, 55% expect a raise next year and 47% expect a bonus. Each of those figures is higher than the corresponding ones for all respondents to the survey, which was conducted online from June to September.

But the positive feelings aren't just about personal compensation. In the survey, 68% of the responding BI and big data professionals said they don't have career changes in mind; of that group, 22% plan to stay in their current positions for the foreseeable future, while 46% said they're open to new opportunities, but aren't actively seeking a different job.

Separately, 39% said the mood in their IT department is optimistic, compared to just 19% who said it's pessimistic. In addition, 41% of respondents said the head count in their department is larger than it was last year, compared to 20% who said their department's workforce had shrunk this year.

Good time to be in BI, big data jobs

"Satisfaction is trending up, because people are thinking about keeping their workers happy," said Matt Mueller, president of CBIG Consulting's Recruiting & Staffing, a Rosemont, Ill., company that helps place BI and big data workers in jobs. "I think IT is becoming more and more specialized, so for the folks who have the right skill set and right background, it is a good time."

For example, Mueller said the percentage of BI and big data survey respondents who received bonuses this year is higher than he personally has seen in previous years -- though the 45% figure is unchanged from the 2014 TechTarget salary survey. In the years following the recession that ran from late 2007 into 2009, bonuses were the first thing to go, as businesses tightened their belts, he noted. But the fact that so many respondents are now receiving bonuses signals to Mueller that organizations are investing more in executives and other workers involved in BI and big data programs.

We're not just fighting fires. We're able to plan for the future.
Dennis Dushekbusiness systems analyst at Bay Towel

Bay Towel's Dushek said he thinks the company has made efforts to keep him and his IT co-workers happy. In a smaller company, such as Bay Towel, it's often harder to retool with new employees if someone leaves than it is in larger organizations, particularly for a role like Dushek's: He's the only one in the department who does reporting for the various business units. As a result, he said he's pretty confident that Bay Towel is unlikely to pull back from its investment in him and his position.

The other thing that's keeping many BI and big data professionals satisfied is that their work is increasingly valued by corporate management, Mueller said. He added that more and more companies are basing their entire business strategy around data and analytics, so workers in the BI and data management fields are enjoying relatively high esteem within their organizations.

Going separate ways on analytics tasks

In some cases, the specialization of roles within IT is also helping BI and big data professionals spend more time on tasks they enjoy. That has been an important factor in keeping data scientists at the Yellow Pages telephone-listings operations in Canada happy with their work, according to Richard Langlois, director of big data and analytics at Montreal-based Yellow Pages Ltd.

Langlois said his team primarily works to set up data pipelines, and ensures that the information in them is clean and ready to use. More technically oriented data engineers handle the process of building data architectures, enabling the data science team to spend virtually all its time on actual analytics applications. The separation of duties allows the data scientists "to focus on analysis activities as opposed to hunting and gathering of the actual data," he said.

Mueller said he's seeing heavy demand for data developers and architects right now, as well as workers with specialized big data skills involving technologies such as Hadoop and NoSQL databases.

Ultimately, he believes compensation will play an important role in companies' ability to retain top BI and big data talent going forward. There's a lot of buzz about how data scientists and other analytics professionals are motivated by interesting challenges and engaging work environments, and that may be true to an extent. But most skilled IT and analytics workers are still going to go to the companies that offer them the best compensation packages, Mueller said.

Given that reality, he would have expected a greater percentage of the BI and big data survey respondents to have reported receiving a raise this year, but he thinks higher numbers will come as the business importance of BI, analytics and big data continues to grow. "Compensation is going to be key to retention," Mueller said. "Challenging work is important, but there are lots of open jobs right now, so you really have to pay people."

Ed Burns is site editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @EdBurnsTT.

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