IBM silences its Business Intelligence Pioneers

April 28, 2009

Yesterday Jos Van Dongen (@JosVanDongen) discovered that H.P. Luhn’s seminal paper on Business Intelligence, dating from 1958 was no longer accessible from IBM.  (Edit: See also the ur-post from Seth Grimes on this – not the first time I’ve been a johnny-come-lately to a topic!) Not only that, but any attempt to read Barry Devlin’s work on Data Warehousing was also thwarted by the ominous-sounding “IBM Journal of R & D | IP Filtering Page”.

“The IBM Journals are now only available online for a fee.” Barked the page.

Instead of the prescient words of Hans Peter, one is now greeted by the announcement that you now have to pay to read the words of wisdom of the godfather father of BI, who happened to work at IBM.

I know these are tough economic times, and IBM need to extract every last cent from their assets too, but the benefits of associating IBM with BI giants such as Luhn and Devlin far outweighs the meagre revenue they will gain from those who are forced to subscribe just for the few BI-related IBM articles.

They should be shouting about their BI bona fides, not locking them up in a subscription to a journal that most people have never even heard of and are unlikely to spring $1000 for.

Maybe the best way is to have some kind of ‘Heritage’ collection, featuring the superstars of the IBM back catalogue which are made available for free.  These might even be promoted to improve IBM’s image as an innovator and not a staid old behemoth, associated with mainframe monopoly and expensive services engagements.

The other issue is the multitude of links out there from a wide variety of people including analysts, business intelligence practitioners, academics, students, even Wikipedia.  The Wikipedia definition of the term ‘Business Intelligence’ even includes a link to the paper. Over time, these links will either get removed, leaving Luhn’s work unread, just a name in a history of BI, or just serve to annoy those who come across them whilst researching and reading about BI, wondering why IBM is nickel and diming them.

Just in the small Twitter business intelligence community, there are quite a few people who have linked to Luhn’s paper:





Even an IDC report hosted by IBM and a history of BI on the Cognos site  by the French Museum of Informatics.

There are thousands more links back to this paper, after all, he is the godfather father of Business Intelligence, not just any old IBM researcher.

Edited April 28, 2009 5:44:29 pm GMT – preferred Mark’s suggestion of ‘godfather’.

Edited May 11, 2009 5:06:30 GMT – Link to Seth Grimes’ earlier post on this topic.

4 Responses to “IBM silences its Business Intelligence Pioneers”

  1. mark Says:

    I think he said “grandfather” or maybe “great uncle” rather than “father”. I propose “godfather” be used from here on as it lends itself to better descriptions.

  2. bfinucane Says:

    It is kind of amazing that they would be doing this. I guess it shows they have bigger things on their minds than business intelligence.

  3. Seth Grimes Says:

    Ah, please see my blog article, “IBM Weighs In: Information Wants To Be Expensive,” at

    I have copies of key Luhn & Devlin articles although unfortunately I don’t have all the Luhn articles I now wish I had. Drop my a note if you’d like me to send PDFs.


  4. […] tiny space somewhere on the latter pages.  So, a new blog post, rather than a footnote to the old one is deserved.  Although not really an apology, the spirit of redress is the […]

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