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Has Business Intelligence Outlived its Usefulness?

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I saw a post with the title “Has Business Intelligence Outlived its Usefulness?” on Colin White’s blog and my first reaction was one of shock. On reading it, however, I see that Colin is taking aim not at BI in general but at the use of the phrase – a narrower and easier target!

I do think that the phrase has problems but not so much that it has outlived its usefulness, as that the usage of the term has been corrupted by software vendors. For instance, analyst firms often try to differentiate between Business Intelligence as a market and the software stack currently labeled as BI software. This is a real problem as it leads to confusion – the BI market includes data mining, for instance, where many BI products do not. The more precise terms like “reporting”, “OLAP”, “data mining” and “executable analytic models” are less prone to create confusion but even these have complications. I don’t know that there is a solution to this beyond a general “caveat emptor” (buyer beware). In this narrow sense, BI may have outlived its usefulness as a label.

The broader question, whether what is generally referred to as BI in a software product sense has outlived its usefulness, is both more interesting and more confusing. Any reader of my blog posts or of our book will know that some (many) of BI’s promises require technology and approaches well beyond the current BI software stack. In the end, Business Intelligence products are not enough to deliver the intelligent business that people want and need. BI (as traditionally defined) is still useful, it’s just not enough – necessary, perhaps, but not sufficient.

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