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What is business cleverness? Business intelligence (BI) is often seen as a term just like armed forces or competitive cleverness. And therefore, the presumed reason for BI is to gather and offer information to help managers make more “intelligent” decisions. This interpretation of the word may be befitting describing the actions of a staff group tasked with gathering information, e.g., a business intelligence unit, but it works less well for detailing IS/IT technologies and applications.

Information Systems vendors and analysts tend to use the word for a group of software tools that can be used to extract and analyze data from corporate and business databases. The mostly used business intelligence software is known as a “query and confirming” tool. Also, business cleverness is a term that some financial experts and commentators use for categorizing a little group of software vendors and their products. A number of commentators identify the following companies as major BI tool vendors: SAP/Business Objects, IBM-Cognos, Oracle-Hyperion, SAS, and MicroStrategy. Many acquisitions have happened since 2002 of BI tool suppliers.

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From a historical perspective, business intelligence is a popularized, umbrella term presented by Howard Dresner of the Gartner Group in 1989 to describe a couple of concepts and methods to improve business decision making by using fact-based support systems. In the first 1990s, the word was sometimes used interchangeably with briefing books and executive information systems.

Seth Grimes (2007) records the first description of business intelligence (BI) was within an October 1958 IBM Journal article. SDG Computing categorizes three types of tools as Business Intelligence Tools: 1. Multidimensional Analysis; 2. Query Tools; and 3. Data Mining Tools. Many observers wouldn’t normally include data mining tools as BI tools. Well, a lot for agreement on this is of the term Business Intelligence and related terms like Business Intelligence Tools. Microsoft sells Excel also, PerformancePoint Server 2007 and SQL Server with Pivot furniture as BI products.

IDC identified Microsoft among the fastest-growing BI suppliers in 2006. What do a few of the major BI vendors say about their BI products and services? SAP/Business Objects claims it is the world’s leading provider of business intelligence (BI) solutions. IBM-Cognos promises it is the leading service provider of business business cleverness solutions. Cognos defines business intelligence as “a category of applications and technology for gathering, keeping, analyzing, confirming on and providing usage of data to help enterprise users make better business decisions”. Oracle-Hyperion is positioned as “a worldwide leader in business cleverness software”.

It creates solutions that help businesses measure performance and drive success. Hyperion offers a data source product called Essbase and financial evaluation, performance management and eCRM analysis solutions. Finally, the MicroStrategy website notes the business helps “corporations transform their functional data into actionable information”. MicroStrategy’s Business Intelligence platform helps meet query, reporting, and advanced analytical needs. Exactly what does all this mean to IS/IT staff and business managers? Confusion and “hype” especially with all the current new entrants claiming to provide BI software and tools.

Broadening the Business Intelligence umbrella is continuing and is increasing the conceptual misunderstandings. For instance, LexisNexis and iPhrase are partnering to deliver Business Intelligence solutions predicated on documents in the LexisNexis Advertising Red Books web directories. Richard Hackathorn, a pioneer in the field of Decision Support Systems, got some feedback about Business Intelligence in the November 2001 DM Review. Hackathorn reminds us that information itself is pure overhead and that it delivers no direct value to a business. That today the issue is making BI actionable He says. He argues that “if your BI projects aren’t changing the way that you do business, they should not be considered BI” then.