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Beautiful Data by Toby Segaran, Jeff Hammerbacher

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A Business Intelligence System

In a 1958 paper in the IBM Systems Journal, Hans Peter Luhn describes a system for "selective dissemination" of documents to "action points" based on the "interest profiles" of the individual action points. The author demonstrates shocking prescience. The title of the paper is "A Business Intelligence System," and it appears to be the first use of the term "Business Intelligence" in its modern context.

In addition to the dissemination of information in real time, the system was to allow for "information retrieval"—search—to be conducted over the entire document collection. Luhn's emphasis on action points focuses the role of information processing on goal completion. In other words, it's not enough to just collect and aggregate data; an organization must improve its capacity to complete critical tasks because of the insights gleaned from the data. He also proposes "reporters" to periodically sift the data and selectively move information to action points as needed.

The field of Business Intelligence has evolved over the five decades since Luhn's paper was published, and the term has come to be more closely associated with the management of structured data. Today, a typical business intelligence system consists of an ETL framework pulling data on a regular basis from an array of data sources into a Data Warehouse, on top of which sits a Business Intelligence tool used by business analysts to generate reports for internal consumption. How did we go from ...

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