Multidimensional analysis – being able to look at data by time, product, market and geography for actuals, budgets and forecasts goes back a long way. IBM developed a language called APL that used multidimensional arrays to create applications on the mainframe in the 60’s. Variants of this language are still used under the bonnet in some products today.
These mainframe based applications were hard to maintain and program and during the 70’s more application like products were developed. Some of these came from a mainframe background like FCS or timesharing bureau such as Express and were more easily used to create business applications. The term 3GL, or third generation language came to be used, signifying that you did not need to be a pure programmer to make use of the software.
Around this time the term DSS, short for decision support system also first appeared and the products around were the real precursors of modern financial applications. With desktop computers and proprietary gui interfaces gaining ground this paved the way for the next set of developments.
The next generation of products appeared during the 80’s. Comshare’s System W was the first to introduce the idea of a hypercube and be more suited to the end user development of financial application. A whole raft of companies and products no longer in existence were launched and the space known as EIS or executive information systems was created. The term 4GL was also used to describe these end user configurable tools though they still needed strong IT support. Some of the products of this era from companies such as Gentia and Pilot Software still exist in one guise or another.
In the early 90’s the first genuine OLAP (online analytical processing) products appeared such as Essbase and TM1 alongside the first packaged applications for specific solutions such as Adaytum, Enterprise and Pillar. With Windows firmly entrenched, client server a common term, and relational databases well established as an IT standard, these dedicated products came under the heading of analytic applications.
As the PC became ubiquitous throughout the 90’s more and more people required access to information. A whole generation of reporting tools emerged to satisfy this demand for information and analytic applications become subsumed within the wider concept of BI or business intelligence. Only now with the umbrella terms of corporate or business performance management (CPM and BPM) is the focus returning to analytic applications