Purple People: The Essential Element of Business Intelligence
If you’re feeling confused about the blog title — trust me, I’ve been there. Myself, I hadn’t had the opportunity to come across the phrase “purple people” until a couple of weeks ago when my colleague sent me an article mentioning them. I was in a muddle. Who are they, what do they do and what significance do they have?
Before we get to purple people, I must share a funny story related to this subject. Before I googled them, I mentioned purple people to my sister seeking a potential explanation as to who they are, and my 8-year-old niece happened to be in the room. “Well, it’s pretty clear why they’re called purple people — they paint themselves purple!” she said. Even though I laughed a lot, her idea was the only logical clarification back then.
So, who are purple people?
They are a mix of red and blue people. Let’s imagine each of them possessing a specific set of skills. Whilst red people possess technical skills and blue people possess business skills — purple people possess an assemblage of both red and blue people’s skills.
It is believed that the first purple person originated from an early age of complex technologies. That person was the one who wanted to understand them and implement the gained knowledge into the business and organizational processes in order to develop new strategies essential for achieving effectiveness and better insights for competitive market advantage. Today, his successors represent a larger number of those who speak purple. The best of them switch from one skill to another as fast as switching channels on the remote control. Most importantly, their significance is far more acknowledged. They are considered the missing piece of the business intelligence puzzle.
Why is that? Well, it’s mostly due to their strongest attribute — agility. They are usually leaders in a company since they know which red and blue people they should team up with in order to deliver value as fast as possible. Apart from this, they are also hiring new talents, those who don’t belong in the red or blue team either, but the purple one — and they end up working in positions such as product managers, analysts, and authorities or experts in fields such as engineering, science, etc. They are analytics translators — functioning as a bridge between technical know-how (data scientists and data engineers) and operational proficiency (marketing teams, mass production, supply chain management, ie.). Also, we must not forget to mention that red and blue people usually lack trust between each other and disrespect each other very often, mainly due to the lack of comprehension towards each other’s job positions and responsibilities they have in terms of obstacles, challenges, pressures, and deadlines. Purple people have to find a way to avoid these dissimilarities since they can come across as degrading for executing project assignments for all team members.
Business intelligence depends on purple people because they are crucial to providing information that is continuously answering business questions. This means that purple people are in charge of rigorous examining and understanding a large scale of business issues, strategies, tactics, etc. and this is a never-ending process since business questions are molded according to the broader market circumstances. Since the market requires fast adaptability and therefore fast solutions, it is necessary to find people who feel comfortable with juggling different business and technology skills to address these questions and act immediately. That’s why it’s said that purple people are delivering the “real value”.
One major answer to the questions mentioned above is cognitive technologies. These technologies are the future of the world we live in, and purple people are the heart and mind of grasping them and implementing them into the market. That’s why entrepreneurs and executive-level managers give them so much worth — where they stop being recognized as purple, but come across as special.
So, how to spot a purple person within your company? After everything we’ve learned so far, it’s pretty easy — look for the ones who are obtaining business interest through constant construction of tight relations between business and technology departments and who serve as the translator between both of these environments. If that’s you, well, I am happy to be the one who helped you realize you speak purple. Congratulations!
Tatjana Lukic, Project Assistant at Bridgewater Labs