BI careers stuck in doldrums; business ties, big data could put wind in sails

Credit: Image credit: Nouhailler/Flickr

I was disheartened when I thumbed through my copy of Computerworld's annual Salary Survey for IT pros. Its data indicate that business intelligence analysts lag behind most other IT professionals in terms of pay.

According to the 2012 report, BI analysts make about $85,000 per year in the U.S., putting them 15th on a list of 27 job titles. (Database architects were #1 with $109,600 in average wages.) Worse, BI analysts managed a tiny 0.9% salary increase from 2011, the 24th lowest average pay raise by percentage among every job title, and less than half of the 2.1% average for everyone.

Those are rather perplexing figures when you consider that Gartner's research says that CIOs have business intelligence projects on the top of their lists for 2012.

However, when you consider a different survey done by Cindi Howson, founder of BI Scorecard, those numbers make a bit more sense. Her research indicates that only 26% of executives she polled called their BI projects "very successful," while 5% called the projects total failures and 22% indicating "slight" success and the rest saying the BI work was moderately successful. Without a lot of very successful projects, BI staff are less likely to reap financial rewards.

Howson says success rates are significantly better within companies that have strong IT and line-of-business (LOB) partnerships. Her advice is for CIOs to create hybrid BI staff members with both technical and business acumen to take charge of the IT/LOB relationship. A solid partnership can lead to increased project success rates, which can lead to improved pay for BI analysts.

But there's also anecdotal evidence that big data can boost careers for BI professionals. In a different report, Computerworld says big data projects are popping up in many companies, giving new opportunities for BI experts to prove themselves. As the projects proliferate, the need for savvy BI professionals will grow. And with the right tools now available to handle big data, I'm confident the success rates will multiply and so, too, staff wages.

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