Wayne Eckerson, a well-respected thought-leader and writer in Business Intelligence space, coined the term "Purple People" in a business analysis blog and later expanded the topic in his book, "Secrets of Analytical Leaders." Eckerson explains that the traditional approach to technology (red) and business (blue) is, by nature, "disparate," but that “people who live at the "confluence" of those approaches and opinions "have a broader perspective."

In fact, they "see connections and possibilities that others miss. They speak multiple languages and gracefully move between different groups and norms. They continuously translate, synthesize, and unify. As a result, they imagine new ways to solve old problems, and they reinvent old ways to tackle new challenges. They are powerful change agents and value creators . . . these men and women [are] "purple people." They are not "blue" in the business or "red" in technology, but a blend of the two, hence purple. Purple people are true analytical leaders."

Seven years ago, I began recruiting "Purple People" and implemented programs to cross-train technology team members in business in an attempt to maximize the effectiveness of development teams. Unfortunately, "Purple People" weren’t easy to find. After over a thousand interviews in seven years, I found ten legitimate, self-made "Purple People." They are simply very rare.

If you are lucky enough to find these candidates while recruiting, hire them and compensate them handsomely as the impact they will bring to your team is invaluable. As the recruiting process begins it is easy to get frustrated and you may begin to feel that "Purple People" are unicorns on the open market. You may never actually see one in real life.

With a market starved for "Purple People," one effective way to add them to your team is to identify technology experts who have the acumen and integrity to become purple; however, they lack real-life business experiences they need to speak the language and enter into meaningful conversations about both. In order to identify such candidates, you must shift the interview process for new members of your development team. Oftentimes it is relatively easy to find candidates who meet all of the technical requirements for a given Development, QA, or Analyst position. Then, assuming technical aptitude has been vetted, open up dialogue about the business and the priority of establishing a "purple" environment.

When you expand your interview process, and you find a candidate who expresses genuine interest, include a discussion about what it means to be "purple people." Emphasize the dedication and commitment it takes to get from red to purple. From my experience of meaningful transformations in any area of life, the best way to begin the process of morphing a "red" technical employee into a "purple" hybrid one is to provide opportunities for real-life business experiences. One way to provide your staff with such opportunities is to assign them to a business unit for a period of time to actually perform the work with the other employees of the business unit. This commitment requires alignment with business partners and a commitment from IT leadership to cost of training and mentoring staff.

During the interview process, you will immediately find many candidates who are resistant to change. They are comfortable in the technology trenches or they have little interest in learning about business and are unable to comprehend how that would ever help them. Many technical folks have a hard time grasping how valuable the input and perspective of business users can be when creating effective solutions. During this recruiting process, hopefully you will come across the select few who jump at the opportunity to learn about the business and express a genuine interest about gaining a wider perspective about the organization and how it is run. These are the folks to latch onto and can be effectively molded into "Purple People."

At Edge R&D we pride ourselves as an organization full of "Purple People," imagining innovative ways to tackle old problems, and "reinventing old ways to tackle new challenges." We are the "powerful change agents and value creators" who know that it is our commitment and patience to our recruiting process that ensures that as our organization grows, it is growing with the right type of people who can provide maximum value to our clients and partners.