December 2, 2007

Disputed history of the term Business Intelligence

According to Computerworld, Howard Dresner coined the term business intelligence in 1989 at Gartner Group. That seems odd, since a week before that story appeared Howard told me and a couple of other folks that he and his colleagues coined the term, not when he worked at Gartner, but previously when he worked at DEC.

Either way, it’s been established that Howard and his colleagues were several decades late; the term was first coined no later than the late 1950s. Whether anybody much used it in the interim is, of course, quite a different matter: I recall terms like decision support and executive information systems (EIS), but not “business intelligence” before the time frame in which Howard claims to have (re)introduced it.

By the way — that “Monash BI” link is NOT to anything I wrote. It’s something associated with Monash University, on the other side of the planet.

Comments

5 Responses to “Disputed history of the term Business Intelligence”

  1. Rob Meredith on December 4th, 2007 1:15 am

    Hi Curt,

    Yes, the whole ‘Monash’ thing is confusing! It took me a while to work out why people were referring to me as Curt. Hopefully it hasn’t caused you too much grief! If I’d known at the time, I’d have called the blog something else.

    According to one of my colleagues here at Monash University, the term was kicking around especially in the 1980s. There was a moderately well known, mid-tier consulting company, I think in the UK, that called themselves Business Intelligence, for example. In fact, in a follow up comment to the post you linked to, there’s some stats showing the term being used in at least 162 indexed articles prior to 1989 when Howard Dresner claims he came up with the term.

    Obviously it’s exploded since then, so I can comfortably accept a claim of popularising the term, but actually (re-)inventing it is a bit of a stretch. Maybe it was a subliminal thing?

  2. Curt Monash on December 6th, 2007 1:38 am

    Hi Rob!

    You might have been able to save yourself a bit of trouble with a web search. But no problem from my end — I’m glad to share the name “Monash” with you guys down under, given that Sir John is the most distinguished member of my family and all. (One small grumble — he really shouldn’t have taken to pronouncing the name with a short “o”. A long one is more in keeping with his, and my, ancestry. :) ) I do get a few email intended for monash.edu from time to time, of course …

    As for re-invention or whatever — where any of those articles particularly well-circulated and/or recent to the late 1980s?

    Best,

    CAM

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    [...] last year, there was a little flap about who invented the phrase business intelligence. Credit turns out to go to an IBM researcher named H. P. Luhn, as per this 1958 paper. Well, I [...]

  4. Historical notes on analytics — terminology | Software Memories on January 17th, 2012 3:08 am

    [...] The term business intelligence was coined in the 1950s and then reinvented in the 1980s; however, it has described a major category only from the 1990s onward, specifically starting when GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) became prevalent.. “Business intelligence” is sometimes used to comprise all of analytics; more commonly, however, it refers to tools focused on data selection and presentation. [...]

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