Data are raw facts that describe the characteristics of an event. Characteristics for a sales event could include the date, item number, item description, quantity ordered, customer name, and shipping details. Information is data converted into a meaningful and useful context. Information from sales events could include best-selling item, worst-selling item, best customer, and worst customer.
Business intelligence is a broad, general term describing information that people use to support their decision-making efforts. An early reference to business intelligence occurs in Sun Tzu’s book titled The Art of War . Sun Tzu claims that to succeed in war, one should have full knowledge of one’s own strengths and weaknesses and full knowledge of the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. Lack of either one might result in defeat. A certain school of thought draws parallels between the challenges in business and those of war, specifically:
- Collecting information.
- Discerning patterns and meaning in the information.
- Responding to the resultant information.