For our fifth interview in our #12Years12Authors series we decided to look slightly closer to home and grabbed some time with Dubliner and data management pioneer Barry Devlin. Back in the 1980s, Barry and his collaborators in IBM in Dublin designed an architectural framework for a thing they called the “Business Data Warehouse“. This paper started the ball rolling for our modern business information systems age.

In that case, you could argue that Data Warehousing was invented in Ireland.

The Interview

Photograph of Barry Devlin

Featured Author: Barry Devlin

In the video, Barry talks about his 2013 book Business unIntelligence: Insight and Innovation beyond Analytics and Big Data“.

This book is one of the core texts we use in Castlebridge when doing inductions and training for our team as it gives a very good introduction to the history and practices of data management and Business Intelligence.

Barry describes the genesis of the book, and talks about the evolution of an architectural view for integrating “big data” both in terms of human-derived data and machine-derived data.

He distinguishes between “data” and “information”, highlighting the fact that we need to remember that information is data with context. Data is a “sawn off version of data” where the context has been removed for processing. Business unIntelligence stressed the importance of focussing on information.

What’s missing from the book in Barry’s view at this stage is a proper treatment of machine learning and AI, but that had yet to emerge as a mainstream area back in 2013.

Barry feels his book holds up well, as does his previous work. I would agree. Barry takes an architectural and “first principles” approach in his work. In my view, this fundamental principles approach is important in a changing technical and business management landscape for data. And it goes back to the theme through these interviews of the need for data management professionals to read widely and to dig into the principles and practices for managing data.

Watch the interview below (and then scroll down for our competition).

Barry’s Influences

Barry had a number of books he thought worthy of mention as influences. This is a common complaint among our interviewees! He also alludes to the fact that there are often books written on data management topics that we might be better off avoiding reading. This brings home the point that has been made by Tom Redman others in this series – data management professionals need to be widely read, but also must learn to read critically so that we can filter the wheat from the chaff to get to the core principles and practices.

In the end, Barry opted for Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. This choice, from one of the fathers of Data Warehousing, should give us all pause for thought.  Zuboff makes Barry wonder if he might be responsible for helping to create a Frankenstein’s monster in data warehousing and analytics. After chatting with Barry I was left pondering the age old maxim: “Just because we can doesn’t mean we should”.

Competition Time

If you would like to be entered into a draw to win some of the books referenced by Barry in this video and in the rest of the videos we’re running this month, please provide your email address and an answer to the simple question in the form below. The terms and conditions for the competition can be found here:

Books Referenced in this Video

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Daragh O Brien

Daragh O Brien

Daragh is the founder and Managing Director of Castlebridge. He brings over twenty years of experience in data strategy and regulatory operations to the table for clients. He lectures in the School of Law in UCD and in the Law Society of Ireland on Data Protection and Data Governance. He is a Fellow of the Irish Computer Society and holds CIPP/E and CIPM certifications from the IAPP and other data management qualifications.