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Data management jobs are out there, but many don't know it

Hannah Smalltree, News Writer

Data management professionals are used to having their jobs mislabeled, misconstrued and misunderstood -- but some say this confusion could lead to bigger problems in the employment market.

Inconsistent job descriptions, titles and terminology threaten to have a big impact on the data management industry, according to leaders at the Data Management Association (DAMA), a Bellevue, Wash.-based not-for-profit association of data resource management professionals. Professionals often aren't clear which skills they should develop to be competitive in their field, said Andres Perez, vice president of marketing with DAMA International and senior information management consultant with San Antonio-based IRM Consulting. The industry also faces a potential skills shortage, because the problem affects career path development and training of new professionals, added Deborah Henderson, president of the DAMA Foundation and information governance architect with Capgemini, currently consulting at General Motors. Additionally, employers aren't always sure what they need or what they're getting with new employees. DAMA is working on several initiatives to solve these problems, because demand for data management skills is growing rapidly, she said.

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Get more information about DAMA's programs in an interview with Deborah Henderson

Learn what DAMA's conference attendees thought were the most important data management trends

 "The necessity for all kinds of data professionals is expanding, but unfortunately, this isn't felt yet by the general community," Henderson said. "Many data management programs at universities have closed or shrunk significantly. We need to bring students up again and educate them in new concepts, related to Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, privacy issues, data security, governance and others. We have a shortage of people coming up, and a lack of understanding that the jobs are out there and the field is expanding again."

Data management jobs market may be helped by new DAMA research

Ironically, part of the problem may be lack of data about the data management field, Henderson said. DAMA conservatively estimates that there are about 100,000 people working in data management jobs worldwide, but the actual number could be much higher. The U.S. Department of Labor, for example, only tracks statistics about two data management titles -- database administrators and systems analysts. But data management encompasses other skills and titles, such as information architects, data quality analysts, business intelligence (BI) managers, metadata administrators, data management managers, enterprise architects, data modelers, data warehouse administrators and many more, Henderson said. That's why DAMA is asking the government to change the way it collects statistics about data management. If DAMA can prove the real size of the profession, it could open up more opportunities for new and experienced data managers, she said.

That's not all DAMA is doing. The association will be conducting its own survey next spring to better size up the data management field and understand its workers. It's taking on terminology problems by proposing a consistent vocabulary for the data management industry. It's working with post-secondary institutions to bring back programs and add more training around data management fundamentals. In addition, it's continuing to promote its vendor-neutral "certified data management professional" (CDMP) program, delivered in partnership with the Des Plaines, Ill-based Institute for the Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP). The certification, available at the "practitioners" and "masters" levels, was first introduced in 1993 and has been overhauled in the last five years. It's intended to benefit both employees and employers, Henderson explained.

"The CDMP helps professionals show a certain level of competency and work experience within the data management field. We feel we can grow this as a branding of professionals that employers will recognize, as well," Henderson said.

Many data management jobs available to those with in-demand skills

Title and terminology confusion aside, many data management skills are in high demand, according to David Foote, president and chief research officer of New Canaan, Conn.-based Foote Partners LLC. The firm publishes research on salaries, skills pay and workforce. In-demand skills for 2006 included data warehousing and BI specialists, database administrators, data modelers, systems integrators and systems analysts, as well as enterprise and business architects, according to data from its 2006 IT Workforce Research Series. Database management, "data mining/data warehouse/business intelligence" and enterprise architecture ranked high in the list of in-demand skills for the next two to five years, according to the report.

The firm's survey of CIOs and IT executives found that companies were planning to increase spending on service-oriented architecture and data integration projects. The same survey also reported that companies are planning to increase hiring for jobs in systems integration, business analysis, and architecture and planning.

However, the firm found that average premiums for certified DBAs declined last year, according to the third quarter 2006 update to its "Hot Technical Skills & Certifications Pay Index." That said, it did list top-ranked DBA certifications, which included Teradata Certified Master, Oracle DBA Certified Master Professional and the IBM DB2 Universal Database Certified Solutions Expert.

But don't run out and get those certifications just yet.

Overall, data management professionals should be more strategic in their thinking, DAMA's Perez said. Rather than focus on tactical issues, they are uniquely poised to help organizations make use of increasing stores of data.

"Many companies don't have true CIOs, [which are] people who manage information, not technology. That's where data management professionals can make significant contributions and help their organizations manage information as an asset," Perez said.


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