BI History

An early reference to non-business intelligence occurs in Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Sun Tzu claims that to succeed in war, one should have full knowledge of one's own strengths and weaknesses and full knowledge of one's enemy's strengths and weaknesses. Lack of either one might result in defeat. A certain school of thought draws parallels between the challenges in business and those of war, specifically:

* collecting data
* discerning patterns and meaning in the data (generating information)
* responding to the resultant information

Prior to the start of the Information Age in the late 20th century, businesses sometimes took the trouble to struggle to collect data from non-automated sources. Businesses then lacked the computing resources to properly analyze the data, and often made commercial decisions primarily on the basis of intuition.

As businesses started automating more and more systems, more and more data became available. However, collection remained a challenge due to a lack of infrastructure for data exchange or to incompatibilities between systems. Reports on the data gathered sometimes took months to generate. Such reports allowed informed long-term strategic decision-making. However, short-term tactical decision-making continued to rely on intuition.

In modern businesses, increasing standards, automation, and technologies have led to vast amounts of data becoming available. Data warehouse technologies have set up repositories to store this data. Improved ETL and even recently Enterprise Application Integration tools have increased the speedy collecting of data. OLAP reporting technologies have allowed faster generation of new reports which analyze the data. Business intelligence has now become the art of sieving through large amounts of data, extracting information and turning that information into actionable knowledge.

In 1989 Howard Dresner, a Research Fellow at Gartner Group popularized "BI" as a umbrella term to describe a set of concepts and methods to improve business decision-making by using fact-based support systems. Dresner left Gartner in 2005 and joined Hyperion Solutions as its Chief Strategy Officer.

Gilbert on Tuesday, February 21, 2006

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