Recent discussions with friends, colleagues and business intelligence (BI) professionals regarding my article "New Directions for Business Intelligence" (DM Review, April 2002) have caused me to reflect on the source of our knowledge about BI and what it means for those of us who believe that information is undervalued and underutilized in business today. I heard from people who experienced the situations discussed in the article on their way to best practice implementations, others who felt that issues such as conforming dimensions and data synchronization needed addressing, and yet others who recognized similarities with data practices from the past. The path to BI today is one of innovation and practical application.

The drive to enterprise-wide information, executive dashboards and data analytics began two decades ago. The technology was referred to as decision support systems and executive information systems, terms that are still used today. There was software designed to integrate data from several mainframe legacy systems. The need was there, as was the associated marketing hype for early products, but the technology was lacking. In particular, using separate data stores provided information that differed with source systems reports. The result was that during the 1980s, report writers (especially those that could be used without the help of IT) were favored by business people while executives looked to the finance department to satisfy their information needs.

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