From Stephen Few's blog http://www.perceptualedge.com/blog/?p=820
The industry that has claimed responsibility for helping organizations get real value from information goes by the name “business intelligence.” This term was originally coined by Hans Peter Luhn, an IBM researcher, way back in 1958. Luhn defined business intelligence as “the ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action towards a desired goal.” The term didn’t catch on, however, until sometime after Howard Dresner, best known for his work at Gartner, used it again to breathe new life into to the data warehousing industry. Dresner defined the term as “concepts and methods to improve business decision making using fact-based support systems.”
Contained in these early definitions was the seed of an inspiring vision that caused people like me to imagine a better world, but the business intelligence industry has done little to help us achieve the vision of the people who coined the term. When Thornton May was interviewing people for his book “The New Know”, he asked a prominent venture capitalist known for his 360-degree view of the technology industry what he thought of when he heard the phrase business intelligence. His response was “big software, little analysis.” Sadly, his response rings true.