Business intelligence (BI) is commonly considered to be "the knowledge gained about a business through the use of various hardware/software technologies which enable organizations to turn data into information."1 These technologies include data warehousing and the analytical tools that access data and turn it into useful information for business managers. The link between BI and an organization that uses it is that an organization collectively is a cognitive system: it senses the environment, makes a representation of it, acts on the basis of the representation and learns from the results of its actions, storing its experience as institutional memory. This article will examine the theoretical limits of BI technology as an aid to the process of organizational learning. This involves looking at how BI technology models the business reality that organizations encounter, how organizations and individual BI users define and access institutional memory and the limits to which BI technology can assist organizational learning. A subsequent article in DM Review's November issue will examine how BI designers can assess the risk imposed by these limitations and plan for successful BI implementations using organizational learning constructs.
In the classic approach to BI system implementation, users and technicians construct a data warehouse (DW) that feeds data into functional data marts and/or "cubes" of data for query and analysis by various BI tools. The functional data marts represent business domains such as marketing, finance, production, planning, etc. At a conceptual level, the logical architecture of the DW attempts to model the structure of the external business environment that it represents. For example, tables in the DW might correspond to customer relationships, product lines, service histories and so forth. This technology arrangement is illustrated in Figure 1.
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