Data-crunching skills in demand

Now that data warehousing and mining projects are becoming the keystone to corporate marketing campaigns, IT staff recruiters say finding people with those data-crunching skills is a top priority.

In fact, data warehousing and mining are some of the hottest skills in the information technology field, according to a recent study by Hewitt Associates LLC in Lincolnshire, Ill. Many of the 224 companies surveyed said they anticipate a shortage of workers with those particular skills.

Experts said IT recruiters should look for a combination of technical and business skills to find a warehouse winner.

John Ladley, a research fellow at Meta Group Inc. and president of Chicago-based consulting firm Knowledge InterSpace Inc., advised looking for actual hands on warehousing and mining experience and exposure to decision-support projects. “A background in measurement and statistical analysis … and experience building an executive information system tells you they understand data quality issues,” Ladley said.


Darrell Grekul, a business analyst who helps run a data warehouse at TimberWest Forest Ltd. in Vancouver, said a good warehouse r,sum, shows time spent with relational data-bases and an understanding of analytical tools. And business experience shows whether the applicant understands what drives a company and its data support projects, he said.

Experts said political skills are key to data warehousing success, which requires working with end users to meet their data needs and persuading divisions to give up data “ownership” for the greater good of the overall project.

Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said experience with data extraction, conversion and modeling will be in demand in the next few years. Analysts warned that some warehousing skills may look good on paper but won’t be that useful.

“Ten years’ experience sometimes is just one year of experience repeated 10 times,” said Herb Edelstein, an analyst at Two Crows Corp., a Potomac, Md., consultancy.

“Really good people in this area are at a premium, so you have to be willing to develop your own,” Edelstein said. Try grooming smart, enthusiastic employees who can grow into the job, he advised.