I think we're creating a leadership vacuum. If you look at industry surveys from Gartner and Forrester and those folks, BI remains a top one or top two initiative for many companies. It's one of the few areas where spending is growing. And yet we're not teaching it in our schools. ... I don't know that kids coming out of IT programs fully appreciate what BI is and how it brings together so many different skills and knowledge areas.
The need for more BI education also comes out strongly in a State of Business Intelligence survey conducted by the BeyeNETWORK and Saint Joseph's University. Richard Herschel, chair of the Department of Decision & System Sciences at the university, highlights some of the survey results in a BeyeNETWORK piece. Among the data points he mentions:
• 57 percent of respondents expect the recruitment of BI talent to increase over the next year.
• 66 percent say that continuing BI education is needed.
• 84 percent believe demand for BI services will grow over the next year.
• Just 26 percent think outsourcing can adequately address this growing demand.
Echoing Gallo, Herschel writes that because BI is a relatively new and still-developing field, most students entering universities or pursuing graduate degrees "are not even aware of BI as a potential field of employment." Only a few universities offer graduate programs in BI or business analytics, he adds, and undergraduate programs are even more unusual.
Need more proof of the growing demand for BI skills? IT Business Edge blogger Susan Hall wrote that data mining and analytics took the No. 2 spot on a list of Hot Careers for College Graduates 2011 published by the University of California-San Diego, trailing only red-hot health IT skills.
Herschel believes the development of some kind of a BI professional association could help educate the general public and students about what kinds of professional opportunities are available in the BI field. With this kind of awareness, he thinks many students enrolled in math, computer science, information systems, finance and accounting courses might be drawn to BI.
Herschel offers an example from his own university, which saw the number of freshmen applicants expressing an interest in a BI major grow from two in 2010 to 210 this year after it changed the name of the major from "Decision & System Sciences" to "Business Intelligence" and distributed a brochure explaining BI.