Decision Support Redux

In the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s the term for software that business users executed to run reports, fire off canned queries, and/or to explore data ad hoc was called “decision support” software. Later, and still today, the term “business intelligence” came into use.

I never understood the sense of the switch. The term “business intelligence” is vague… sort of fluffy and pretentious. “Decision support” implies a purpose. In the years when the switch from one term to the other was in progress, if you asked the question: what do you mean by “business intelligence” the answer was… it is “decision support”.

Today the analytics that underlie both terms are becoming more sophisticated, and they execute in near-real-time. It could be said that there is business intelligence in the process that acquires data, analyzes it, discovers a pattern, and applies a rule automatically as a result. But the software programmer who built the system was focused on automating the decision process… not on creating intelligence.

A clear focus on supporting complex decisions will increase the chances of delivering a return on your investment in analytics. “Intelligence” is not useful unless it is applied to make a better decision. I vote for a return to the phrase “decision support”.