STILL, the software industry is making a big bet that the data-driven decision making described in Mr. Brynjolfsson’s research is the wave of the future. The drive to help companies find meaningful patterns in the data that engulfs them has created a fast-growing industry in what is known as “business intelligence” or “analytics” software and services. Major technology companies — I.B.M., Oracle, SAP and Microsoft — have collectively spent more than $25 billion buying up specialist companies in the field.
I.B.M. alone says it has spent $14 billion on 25 companies that focus on data analytics. That business now employs 8,000 consultants and 200 mathematicians. I.B.M. said last week that it expected its analytics business to grow to $16 billion by 2015.
“The biggest change facing corporations is the explosion of data,” says David Grossman, a technology analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. “The best business is in helping customers analyze and manage all that data.”