In God we trust; all others bring data. This witticism, attributed to Edward Deming, stands as a motto for a variety of data-driven activities, starting with manufacturing quality and extending from leaders in business intelligence (BI) to laggards. Many conventional business enterprises and industries are collecting substantial, high-quality data about their individual and aggregate customers, products and market dynamics. Those enterprises that actually look at and know how to use the data are playing a different game at a more advanced level than those still relying on gut feel alone.

This is not a new idea. In a survey I did as an industry analyst back in 1999 at Giga Information Group, some 78 percent of enterprise respondents reported they had a data warehouse in production. Today, many of those enterprises are operating a third-generation data warehouse. So while the data is not always represented exactly as it is needed, there is more of it than ever before, and its quality is better than ever. Those enterprises that know how to make sense of the data are gaining business value that was previously out of reach. This making sense is often called analytics, which has reached takeoff speed (see Figure 1).

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