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Demand is Growing for Data Warehousing Consultants

"Data warehousing is taking the information industry by storm and is now poised to transform it." That's the word from Ramon Barquin, author of Planning and Designing the Data Warehouse.

But what is data warehousing? Quite simply, it's the process of gathering all of a company's data (from sales and customer information, for example) and putting it in one place -- a data warehouse.

Data warehousing organizes the data in a way that lets people use it to find answers to questions like, "What kind of person buys this product?" or, "How did our sales change with that last promotion?" or, "How did our sales to certain customers change when we moved a product to a different area of the store?"

That's where data warehousing consultants come into the equation.

"Data warehousing consultants fall into different ranges," says John Schuster, a Phoenix-based consultant who has worked with computers for 25 years and data warehouses for the last 10.

"First there are the people who build warehouses," he says. "These people are called warehouse architects or data modelers. Architects, some of whom are consultants, need to know data transformation and data loading skills and they need to have enough business sense to be able to talk to both computer users and business managers."

Data warehouse consultants also use warehouses to help businesses target customers better.

"These consultants are known as business intelligence consultants," Schuster explains. "They generally need to know how to use decision-support tools and have a very good knowledge of data mining."

Data mining and other business intelligence tools allow the experts to view the data from far more views than ever before.

So, where do you learn this type of stuff? Schuster says that in the U.S., at the bare minimum, you shouldn't consider going into battle without a bachelor's degree in computer science and about five years of experience in the field.

"Some guys can get away without one [a degree], but they have a ton of practical on-the-job experience and a long list of happy references," says Schuster.

But Schuster recommends the university degree and the following kernel of advice: "Learn tools," he says emphatically. "Take your time and learn data-modeling tools so you can show some fluency in what you're doing. Just be five minutes ahead of everyone else."

Mention the pay and Schuster's voice gets a little giddy.

"A middle-of-the-road consultant can get anywhere from $200 to $300 per hour," he chuckles. And when asked what a high-end consultant earns, he offers a conservative guess. "I'd say a project manager with expertise would be up around $400 an hour."

Even a low-end data warehousing consultant, according to Schuster, can earn between $70 and $200 an hour, which isn't exactly chump change.

"With the continuing growth of the data warehousing market, we expect companies will naturally evolve into adding a data mining component to their warehouses," says John Shoesmith. He is a software research manager with the International Data Corp. He adds that data warehousing consultants offer the best skills to run data mining solutions.

Optimism for the field abounds. Just ask data warehousing consultant Sid Adelman of the California-based firm Adelman and Associates. "Data warehousing has no end in sight," he says. "It's a project that keeps going and going, because you're always getting new users."


What is Data Warehousing?
A simple definition

Data Warehousing Information Center
A collection of essays

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