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Are you a Purple Person?
Delaney Turner 270002T14M firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  howard_dresner bi_skills ibmsoftware
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Wayne Eckerson wrote a great post last week explaining why "Purple People" are the key to overcoming the communications, culture and skills gap between IT and business. I've been following this particularly thorny area of BI for years, but never before have I seen the problem laid out so clearly.
Based on the feedback to the post I've been seeing in our LinkedIn Group and my own experiences listening to customers at our Innovation Center Roundtables, I'd say Eckerson has definitely struck a chord. Good thing, too, because bridging this gap is often the biggest challenge in a BI deployment.
Here's how it works: on the color wheel, the color purple is formed by mixing red and blue - both strong, distinct primary colors. In the world of BI, red represents IT while blue symbolizes the business user. Both constituencies come to a BI deployment with specific demands, cultures and unfortunately, mutual suspicion of the other side. Eckerson writes:
In most organizations, these two groups are at loggerheads. Neither side trusts or respects the other. This is largely because neither understands the pressures, deadlines, and challenges that the other faces. And, there is a yawning cultural gulf between the two groups that magnifies their mutual hostility: they speak a different language, report to different executives, travel in different social circles, and possess different career ambitions.
In Eckerson's view, the key to bridging this divide is to find the intermediary who can see and understand both sides. Hence the "Purple Person":
In contrast, a purple person is neither red nor blue. They are neither pure technologist, nor pure business; they are a blend of both...Purple people are key intermediaries who can reconcile business and IT and forge a strong and lasting partnership that delivers real value to the organization.
Howard Dresner also tackled the subject recently in his post-Gartner BI Summit blog post,using some stats from his "Wisdom of Crowds" study:
IT and end users still have very different perspectives when it comes to Business Intelligence. While some conference presentations surfaced this issue and offered some potential solutions - elsewhere the term "rogue user" was heard as a way to describe unruly business users who attempt to forge their own BI destiny. Granted, some users aren't cooperative, but most just want BI their way and they want it quickly. So while the "rogue" rhetoric may offer some comfort to beleaguered IT people, it doesn't help to solve the problem. Instead it encourages an unproductive divisiveness.
The Business-IT divide isn't going away. If anything, it will only become more pronounced as business users become more involved in BI purchasing decisions. In successful deployments, both sides find ways to overcome their differences to build a relationship that meets both sets of needs. Some organizations are fortunate enough to have these Purple People on staff and directly involved in the project. Others establish a BI Competency Center to ensure both disciplines are represented.
Are you one of the Purple People? If so, send me your thoughts.
Need to be Purple-er? These resources should help:
Pop culture junkie? Take a look at this:
(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)