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Barry Devlin

As one of the founders of data warehousing back in the mid-1980s, a question I increasingly ask myself over 25 years later is: Are our prior architectural and design decisions still relevant in the light of today's business needs and technological advances? I'll pose this and related questions in this blog as I see industry announcements and changes in way businesses make decisions. I'd love to hear your answers and, indeed, questions in the same vein.

About the author >

Dr. Barry Devlin is among the foremost authorities in the world on business insight and data warehousing. He was responsible for the definition of IBM's data warehouse architecture in the mid '80s and authored the first paper on the topic in the IBM Systems Journal in 1988. He is a widely respected consultant and lecturer on this and related topics, and author of the comprehensive book Data Warehouse: From Architecture to Implementation.

Barry's interest today covers the wider field of a fully integrated business, covering informational, operational and collaborative environments and, in particular, how to present the end user with an holistic experience of the business through IT. These aims, and a growing conviction that the original data warehouse architecture struggles to meet modern business needs for near real-time business intelligence (BI) and support for big data, drove Barry’s latest book, Business unIntelligence: Insight and Innovation Beyond Analytics, now available in print and eBook editions.

Barry has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years, mainly as a Distinguished Engineer for IBM in Dublin, Ireland. He is now founder and principal of 9sight Consulting, specializing in the human, organizational and IT implications and design of deep business insight solutions.

Editor's Note: Find more articles and resources in Barry's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel and blog. Be sure to visit today!

Elephant.pngIt's now more than two weeks since the second annual Tech4Africa Conference in Johannesburg finished.  My excuse for not blogging earlier?  Well, my reason is that that I took a vacation in the Kruger National Park immediately afterwards.  Hence the picture.  Which also fits the theme of this post...

I was invited to present as an African speaker!  I felt a bit of a fraud--two years living on the continent, especially in Cape Town, probably the most European of African cities--hardly seemed to qualify me for the label.  But, as I listened to the various other contributors, I began to realise that, somehow, the African technology environment seems to make sense to me.
The most striking thing about the event was its heart.  I mean the sense of energy and excitement shared by the speakers, staff and attendees alike.  Part is, I'm sure, due to the unrelenting enthusiasm and dedication of the founder and chief bottle-washer of Tech4Africa, Gareth Knight.  But, more was due to something in the air at the event.    

I have been to many enthusiastic and energetic events over the years.  The early TDWI conferences in the US.  Most recently Strata in Santa Clara last February.  But the difference here was the source of all the energy and the target of the enthusiasm.  Here it was all about making a difference for the people of Africa.  Through commerce and technology, for sure.  But, the most important thing was that it was about doing it in a way that fit in with the environment and culture of the continent.  Or to be more correct, the environments and cultures of this huge continent.  Just see how big it is!  Perhaps you can begin to imagine the diversity, too.

This impression was further reinforced by the companies and products that were honoured at the event.  The winner of the Innovation Award was TxtAlert, a mobile techology platform designed to improve adherence to Anti-Retroviral Treatment schedules.  The technology is built on basic SMS, but the impact is extraordinary in its scope.  Much the same applies to the other nominees for the Award.

In contrast, the winner of the Samsung Ignite competition for start-ups was a product that would probably only work in one small area of the continent, the Western Cape province of South Africa... and much of the "Western world".  The winner was Real Time Wine, a mobile platform aimed at the supermarket wine-buying audience that enables them to discover, review, engage with and buy wine, using smartphone apps, game technology and barcode scanning.

All in all, an excellent conference that, judging from the comments I heard there and saw on Twitter, provided great value to the businesses that attended and great encouragement to the innovators and software vendors who participated.  For the speakers, especially the international ones (and I'll include myself in that category for now), it was an eye-opener.

Well done to Gareth, Chrissy (event lynchpin) and all the team.  I, for one, am already looking forward to the 2012 event!

Posted November 15, 2011 6:17 AM
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