Barry Devlin: People are the third element of the business “trinity”

Barry Devlin’s elegant writing style and the wisdom of his observations in Business unIntelligence convinced me at first graze that it would be worth reading. Then today, as I needed a reason to make time, I came across this.

Business exists, not to make money, but for and because of peoples’ needs to interact and trade the fruits of their labors.

I think that’s correct. It’s also a bold statement to an industry run by technology within a business culture mostly driven by other values. Even better, it promises more. We can hope it gives the BI industry a prod. Who has more credibility to do so than a co-inventor of the data warehouse?

It’s also a mere stone’s throw from a half-formed opinion of my own, until now expressed only among friends. I suspect that the greatest value of data analysis is to start conversation and to give it focus. The usual benefits touted in marketing collateral all rank lower. Someone who runs one of the biggest sources of such marketing has said as much in the privacy of lunch.

People, Barry writes, are the third element of the modern business “trinity” with information and process.

In business intelligence, I believe, too much attention goes to the first two. I suppose that’s because information technology is easier to sell and process is easier to talk about. People are much more difficult. Based on my long experience at all levels of business, I’ve found people’s behavior is not only equally important but much more interesting.

He goes on:

Over history, we see that one may have been emphasized over the others at different times or in different circumstances. … But, it’s important to understand that the biz-tech ecosystem can only function properly with a proper balance of all three elements.

The book, Business unIntelligence: Insight and Innovation Beyond Analytics and Big Data (2013; Technics), goes now to the top of the must-read stack.

Also: See his interview with Radiant Advisors editor Lindy Ryan.


  1. Barry Devlin says:

    Thanks, Ted. If you’re particularly interested in the people aspects, fast-forward to Chapter 9! I’m also dealing with some of these aspects in my blogs at the moment. See for the last entry and an interesting one coming up later this week, inspired by Dave Eggers’ “The Circle”

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