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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!

Business unIntelligence Cover.jpgThe first in a series of posts introducing the concepts and messages of my forthcoming book, "Business unIntelligence--Insight and Innovation Beyond Analytics and Big Data", available in mid-October.

The term business intelligence has long struck me as something of an oxymoron. Much of the business behavior I've encountered has been far from intelligent. Perhaps I'm a little cynical, but business dysfunction often seemed a more appropriate term. Furthermore, intelligence is surely setting the bar far too low today in the second decade of the 21st century; BI, in practice, too often means little more than generating reports filled with backward-looking data. Can't business do better? What about intuition, insight or inspiration? Should we not also consider social aspects, given that business is largely a collective, collaborative venture?

I played with many positive-tinged terms in search of a title for my book. But none had the breadth of vision I desired; many had already been appropriated by marketing. I introduced the term Business Integrated Insight (BI2) way back in 2009 in a Teradata-sponsored white paper. It was a brave move for a company that is synonymous with the data warehouse, given that the main thrust of the paper was that data warehousing was in need of a major rethink as operational and informational business needs were converging.  The name BI2 didn't stick. But, the ideas did, and the emergence of big data since then has confirmed what I said earlier: we need to start thinking more holistically about the information resource of the enterprise.  

Since then, technologies have evolved--Hadoop, for example--and business priorities have shifted further. Operational analytics drives operational and informational systems ever closer. Collaborative working is finally taking hold in BI. Cloud and Mobile reiterate the importance of a service oriented approach to process.

By late 2012, it was clear to me that the book must begin from what is wrong with how business is today and how to fix it. Simply put, business isn't making enough use of all the information potentially at its disposal. Decisions are poorly understood, never tracked and unrelated to any clear idea of process. Psychological and sociological underpinnings are ignored. Clearly, this is unintelligent behavior by business. Business unIntelligence.

On first encounter, this may sound like a negative phrase. But slowly, gradually, it also became clear that Business unIntelligence is precisely what business today needs in order to benefit from extensive information, adaptive process and the strengths of actual people. Rationality of thought and far beyond it. Logic of process, predefined and emergent. The confluence of reason and inspiration, emotion and intention, collaboration and competition--all that comprises the human and social milieu that is business. Not business intelligence. But Business unIntelligence. Insight and Innovation beyond Analytics and Big Data.

I will be exploring the themes and messages of the book over the coming weeks, beginning with a key concept: the biz-tech ecosystem.  You can pre-order the book on Amazon; it should be available in mid-October.  In the interim, check out Thomas Frisendal's in-depth review. I will be speaking on the topic at a number of webinars and conferences.  For starters, check out my presentation at the BrightTALK Business Intelligence and Big Data Analytics Summit, live on September 12th.

Posted August 13, 2013 6:27 AM
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