By Mark Dexter
8th December 2014

Gartner’s recent CIO insights document shows that BI/analytics is the number one (and growing) priority for CIOs globally.

Additionally, respondents to the recent Computerworld Forecast survey who said they plan to add IT positions in the next 12 months, listed BI/analytics expertise as the skill set they expect to have the hardest time finding.

Well who would have thought it? Anyone involved in hiring people with BI/analytics skills would testify to the fact that the good people are in great demand. It’s a huge area, and an area we spend all of our days recruiting for.

So which skills within the world of BI/analytics are going to be the hottest in 2015?

  1. Big Data

Of course, what else? As we now seem to be up to 7 Vs from the original 3 I’m not going to write about Big Data, it’s been written about more than pretty much anything else this year by many more qualified people than me. But any big data project is irrelevant without No 2 and 3 in my list.

  1. Information Management Strategy

Not BI/analytics is it? True, but unless you have a clear Data/Information Management strategy in place there is not much point in running yet another BI project that will over run and probably deliver fancy reports and dashboards on incomplete, and just plain wrong, data.

  1. Data Governance

That’s not BI/analytics again, surely? Maybe not, but without a solid Data Governance structure and culture behind any large scale BI/analytics programme you are setting yourself up to fail so it gets my vote at No 3.

  1. Data visualisation

Everyone loves a pretty picture. That’s not as glib a comment as it may seem but an intelligent picture really can tell a thousand words. I for one get blinded by too many rows on a spreadsheet or two much information on a report, but show me a nice Venn or a bar chart, with the required detail behind it and I can be much more informed, faster than with just the written facts and figures. Leading tools come from Qliksense and Tableau.

  1. Data Blending

In the new world of Big Data you may find that your enterprise Data Warehouse is not the right vehicle to pull all of the fast moving, disparate data sources together. The Likes of Alteryx and Pentaho may provide the answer but in a truly enterprise world you are probably best sticking to ...

  1. Data Warehouse automation

The Data Warehouse has been around a long time but is traditionally slow and expensive to build, and even more expensive to maintain. Never before has it been so straightforward to build and enhance your Data Warehouse as Kalido and Wherescape mature their products and make agile Data Warehousing a realistic alternative to having teams of ETL developers coding for months (or years) on end.

  1. In memory analytics

This technology has been around for a while now but there are a number of vendors giving a variety of tools to suit your budget and the scale of your data crunching needs. Amongst the independents (without the baggage of having to work within the constraints and upselling say an SAP or IBM) you have Exasol and Zizo. Or you can always go for HANA and suddenly find you are paying for SAP’s full suite of software without realising it :)

  1. Cloud BI

Everyone’s talking about The Cloud and there is no doubt it is here to stay. It seems fitting that one of the leading independent cloud BI vendors is based on the rainy plains of Cheshire, so Matillion BI is tipped for the top. Currently aimed at mid-sized companies their open source stack is sure to develop to scale to enterprise corporates. From the US comes Birst and with a partnership in place with HANA they may well have the march on the enterprise for now.

  1. Data Quality

Rubbish in, rubbish out. And if your data is big then you are just going to process more rubbish unless your DQ is up to speed.

  1. Recruitment

Sounds corny coming from a recruiter, surely. Probably, but if you do not have the skills in place to deliver any BI/analytics project beyond the initial vendor support scoping then you are doomed to fail. And I think I might know someone who can help...

Now it's your turn...

So what have I missed off? What is on here that shouldn't be? Are there any vendors that deserve an honourable mention that aren't here? I welcome your comments!


"A very accurate reflection of the current BI space. In particular number 9 (Data Quality) which in my view should be part of the Information Management strategy (2)." - Liam Edwards

"Thanks Liam! I kept DQ as a separate point because it’s one of my personal bugbears that it frequently gets overlooked. So yes, I agree that is should be a part of your overall IM strategy, but it’s also worth a reminder so it’s not forgotten!" - Mark Dexter (In reply to Liam Edwards)

"I agree with Liam that the list is a pretty accurate summary of many of the key skills and technologies that are required. One area not mentioned, that I believe to be essential, is the “softer” skill of being able to work with the business stakeholders, not only to define the initial requirements for BI, but also to be able to work in an agile manner to rapidly build and rebuild (and refine and refine again) a deliverable that hits the spot. Even after initial delivery there must be continued development. BI Projects that take years are not acceptable" - Steve Morris

"Fascinating read, especially around points 2,5 and 8. I am hearing a lot of chatter in NHS circles about Tableau – it may be that Qlikview finally has a serious challenger for the NHS market." - Ian Andrews

"Thanks Ian! You’re spot on about Tableau, chatting to a proper (rather than amateur like me) analyst the other day it would appear that Tableau is really taking off, something like 50,000 customers now…" - Mark Dexter (In reply to Ian Andrews)

"Agreed, Steve. As far as I’m concerned the softer skills go without saying in any BI/information related role. Not only are these roles business facing but more often than not the business stakeholders need to be enlightened that the project they are going to commit some of their time to will actually bear fruit in the long run. As long as the projects don’t go on for years! ��" - Mark Dexter (In reply to Steve Morris)

"#5 and #6 can’t solve the issue that most analysts face – the fact that they are bringing together data from varied sources, of varied quality, and sometimes only once or twice – blending assumes a lot of clean-up has already happened with those datasets and automation is a lot of work to do if you are not even sure you are going to use those datasets again. As agile as BI tools are today, where you don’t even know all the questions you want to ask when you start, a counterpart data prep solution is needed that doesn’t require you to have perfect data before you start building your answerset. Ask a question, get more data, see the answer, ask another question, get more data, and so on…. Paxata sees this another new data frontier…more depth than wrangling/blending, more flexible than ETL and more controllable/reusable than Excel." - Cari


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