Business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing systems were once considered nice to have, but they are now so essential to business success that many companies cannot manage their business effectively without them. These systems are no longer standalone and separate from operational processing ­– they are becoming more and more integrated into the overall business process. This integration allows BI to be used not only for strategic and tactical planning, but also for actively driving day-to-day business operations and decisions. To support operational decision making, the BI system must provide easy-to-use and self-service enterprise analytic applications that enable real-time decision making. It must also include a methodology (either formal or informal) that helps organizations assign responsibilities to specific business users for handling BI and define actions to be taken when BI identifies business problems that require urgent attention. Such a system can be thought of as supporting integrated and actionable BI, and this will be the focus of my column. I intend to review strategies, technologies and products that enable an organization to become an intelligent business, rather than just a business with a data warehousing system.

Software and hardware for delivering accurate business information to executives and managers for corporate decision making has evolved from early centralized batch reporting systems to data warehousing and BI processing, and more recently to enterprise analytic applications.

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