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Business intelligence vendors react to SAP's plans to acquire Business Objects

Business intelligence vendors react to SAP's plan to acquire Business Objects with what they think SAP/Business Objects customers should be asking now.

SAP AG's plan to acquire Business Objects SA is a major event in the business intelligence (BI) and corporate performance management (CPM) market. The deal has inspired varied responses from other vendors. collected BI/CPM vendor reactions from most of the companies on Gartner's Magic Quadrant for BI. We interviewed executives via email to ask how this deal could affect the market and customers of SAP and Business Objects. We also asked for their thoughts on what questions SAP and Business Objects customers should be asking now, as they assess the impact of the deal on their BI/CPM implementations. Here are the excerpted responses from the vendor interviews and statements.

Actuate Corp., San Mateo, Calif.
Nobby Akiha, senior vice president of marketing

This is the latest in a string of acquisitions that leaves everybody wondering what the future of their BI deployments holds. Actuate strives to alleviate this uncertainty by delivering commercial offerings that are BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools)-based; built using open source technology from the Eclipse Foundation. Actuate customers can be assured that whatever the future landscape of the BI market, their technology selection will remain community driven, rather than economically driven.

On a tactical level, this is a positive development that will disrupt one of our major competitors and will stall one of our major competitive products, Crystal Reports. Also, this opens a second front of competition for SAP with Microsoft. Competing with both Oracle and Microsoft at the same time will consume a lot of resources, which will also open opportunities for vendors who focus on solving specific business problems.

SAP customers should ask, "When will they be able to integrate the Business Objects stack into their SAP implementations?" Business Objects customers who are not SAP users should ask, "Will you force me to install SAP infrastructure in future upgrades?" and "How will this effect the existing integration projects of Crystal and Web Intelligence, Cartesis [acquired by Business Objects earlier this year] and SRC [acquired in August 2005]?"

Actuate has information specifically for Business Object's customers, available here.

Cognos Inc., Ottawa
Mychelle Mollot, vice president of market strategy and strategic communications

This presents a great opportunity for Cognos and validates the market vision we laid out more than six years ago. Our market focus to be the independent leader in performance management and BI won't change because that's what customers want. They want a strong, independent and open solution -- and we provide that. Business Objects under SAP can't.

There are several questions a customer should ask with this deal:

  • What's SAP's vision for performance management?
  • What BI products will stay? Which ones will go under the new company?
  • Who do I go to now for support and services?
  • Will I be forced to use the SAP technology stack? What if I don't want to?
  • How can I start a project as a BOBJ customer with one set of technologies without knowing if I'll need to replace them soon after? The list goes on and on.

Just raising the questions on the acquisition gives us a huge competitive advantage. In fact, we were getting calls [the day] the news was announced.

This announcement is a $6.8 billion admission by SAP that the BI and PM strategies they have been sharing with customers were not cutting it. It's also an announcement that is likely to leave many customers -- who bought the SAP Business Suite believing they were getting access to all of the technology and applications they needed for BI and PM -- angry they will have to buy additional licenses to really get what they were promised.

Information Builders Inc., New York
Michael Corcoran, chief marketing officer

While it gives SAP major market share, it potentially limits the Business Objects technology to an SAP-only solution in the future. Most organizations still need an independent BI solution because they possess a collection of data, applications and platforms from multiple vendors.

Our plans are to remain independent, as there is a strong market demand for our unique strengths. These strengths include our ability to deliver on-demand business intelligence to the unserved masses and our wide-reaching data integration. Being privately held, we are in control of our destiny. We will only choose directions which enhance the longevity of our products and our customer relations.

Customers should be concerned about their ability to openly leverage their current data warehouse strategies in the future. The goal of SAP has been to move customers toward their Business Warehouse offerings, which may not be in the best interest of current Business Objects customers. Another concern may be the integration of their multiple development organizations. Both firms have had challenges in this area before.

Kalido Inc., Burlington, Mass.
Bill Hewitt, CEO

The consolidation in the software market over the past few years has led to a small number of large vendors providing solutions for most companies. While SAP is new to the consolidation game, they would be well served to take a page from Oracle's playbook and understand that no one technology will serve every purpose. For example, SAP BW does a good job at operational reporting, but lacks the ability to provide solid trend data and sophisticated harmonization of data across multiple sources. Too often large companies focus on only their largest customers, instead of understanding the market needs across the board. What customers do want when it comes to managing information is an independent information management layer that can seamlessly integrate with both transaction systems and end-user tools, like Business Objects. Then and only then will they be able to give customers what they want- independence and choice to leverage the BI platform that makes the most sense for their individual requirements.

LucidEra Inc., San Mateo, Calif.
Ken Rudin, CEO and co-founder

LucidEra provides BI via the hosted/on-demand model, [so] we are able to target a completely different part of the market that is greatly underserved -- SMBs and midmarket companies. The on-demand model enables us to provide BI solutions that are simple to set up, simple to use and simple to buy, which provides an alternative to the traditional solutions provided by Business Objects and SAP, which are complicated to deploy and difficult to maintain. SAP's acquisition of Business Objects does nothing to help simplify their product offerings. In fact, it's quite the opposite, since the companies have spoken about embedding Business Objects analytics in all SAP applications, making them even more complex. While these behemoths are distracted and bogged down for the next 12 months, as they try to figure out how to integrate their products and their companies, vendors like LucidEra will have a wide berth to focus on innovation and building out our customer base.

Customers should ask about the technology integration strategy … how long will the process really take? Oracle's Fusion project has been in the works for years, and is still nowhere near complete. Also, in the wake of this acquisition, what's going to happen to Business Objects' recently announced SaaS [Software as a Service] strategy? With the enterprise focus of SAP, and the stated focus of getting Business Object's products embedded into SAP as soon as possible, what assurances are there that BOBJ's SaaS strategy won't be completely shelved?

Chris Caren, general manager of office business applications

As expected, the BI marketplace continues to evolve, and we're excited to be a strong player in the space. We're listening to our customers who have told us that they want to deploy and use solutions that allow people to work in the familiar Office environment,

More on SAP's plans to acquire Business Objects
Get the basics on the proposed SAP/Business Objects deal

Read what SAP users are saying about the acquisition

Find out analyst's thoughts on whether Oracle will outbid SAP for Business Objects
Check out a Q&A about the deal with an SAP executive

scales to the needs and budgets of businesses both large and small, and offers the best overall investment. Our vision is to deliver what customers want through a single, integrated solution and provide pervasive BI through high-performance, low-cost BI solutions for all business users throughout the organization, leading to better, faster, more relevant decisions.

MicroStrategy Inc., McLean, Va.
Sanju Bansal, chief operating officer

With the SAP acquisition of Business Objects, the business intelligence industry continues to shake out. MicroStrategy is ideally positioned for success as a pure-play vendor, with better technology, better integration and better client service than the competition. Business Objects needed to be acquired because its long sequence of nonsynergistic acquisitions has ultimately diluted the company's focus in a market where focus is essential for delivering the next generation of BI. Business Objects has had poor license results and, in my opinion, turned to SAP as a lifeline to access the SAP customers as a prospect base for its diverse products.

Oracle Corp.
Spokepeople would not provide a statement for this piece.

Panorama Software Ltd., Toronto
Oudi Antebi, vice president

Panorama is not threatened in the short- to midterm. There are 14,000 users of NetWeaver BI (BW) worldwide. Panorama NovaView for SAP NetWeaver BI was developed specifically to extend and leverage the investments that SAP customers have made in NetWeaver BI. The feedback that we have received from SAP customers is that SAP's own front-end tools -- SAP BEx -- albeit powerful, are very complex and do not meet industry standards. Panorama NovaView connects directly to SAP BEx queries and InfoCubes. We also integrate and compliment the BEx front-end tools. Panorama does not replace the core SAP NetWeaver platform or front end -- we extend them to more users, improving NetWeaver BI performance and making SAP BI easier to use.

In contrast, Business Objects' strategy has always been to replace the SAP NetWeaver BI platform and BEx tools and replace SAP with their own platform -- BOBJ Universe. This strategy has failed, and Business Objects has very few SAP customers that integrate with NetWeaver BI. In the long term, SAP may be able to convince their customers to move away from NetWeaver; however, we solve the BI challenges faced by SAP customers have today. Companies have spent millions on deploying and optimizing NetWeaver BI. They want solutions that take advantage of these investments. In addition to SAP, we also natively support Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services, a platform Business Objects supports very lightly. To support SQL Server Analysis Services, Business Objects requires customers to extract data from Analysis Services and flattening the data to work inside the BOBJ Universe.

Panorama's tenacity and focus are the reasons why we are one of the fastest-growing BI companies and in the latest review by The OLAP Report, recognized as the best "Best of Breed" OLAP solutions provider.

[Customers should ask]: Historically companies that have attempted to deploy Business Objects solutions on SAP have been riddled with challenges and less-than-optimal results. How does Business Objects intend to solve these issues? How does Business Objects plan to address their performance issues that have been their Achilles' heel for years? What is SAP/Business Objects' partnering strategy?

Panorama is the only third-party BI solution provider that does not extract any data or duplicate metadata from NetWeaver BI. We are 100% complimentary to SAP's back and front end.

QlikTech International AB, Radnor, Pa.
Anthony Deighton, vice president of marketing

Acquisitions like Business Objects represent legacy technology (OLAP) and long, expensive, high-risk implementations. Considering the likely additional complexity that will bring, a faster-to-deploy and simpler alternative for companies is more important than ever.

QlikTech intends to remain independent, because we are emerging as the next-generation BI leader. QlikView is the fastest-growing BI [system] three years running, according to IDC. Our platform innovation is the use of in-memory "association technology," which more closely mirrors the way the human mind works, as people think in a nonlinear path driven by building associations.

In the short term, and potentially the long term, too, buyers will be in limbo if they are considering Business Objects. Nothing in this acquisition changes any fundamentals in either company's offering. In fact, they intend to run the companies independently. When you combine an organization like SAP, which has traditionally built large, complex software for experts, with an organization like Business Objects, which has traditionally built large, complex analytic systems, the result is more complexity, not less. Hundreds of companies already use QlikView in place of, or along with Business Objects and other "traditional" tools because it is fast to develop, deploy and update, and users prefer it as their default visual analysis tool.

The enterprise vendors are in a race to find the next big revenue area, and that is in analyzing all of the data in the systems they built to automate business processes. Once automated, it's still just data. The "fatal flaw" in the consolidation race that is happening is that the technology being acquired is old-school, leaving vendors -- and ultimately their customers -- with the same issues as before. OLAP technology requires that companies anticipate every question that could possibly be asked and then build the data analysis to fit those preformed questions. That's not the way "business runs."

SAS Institute Inc., Cary, N.C.
Gaurav Verma, global marketing manager for business intelligence

We see this as validation of our long-standing belief that ERP and other operational platforms have reached a plateau. Organizations are looking to add enterprise intelligence -- combining BI tools, data integration and data quality, and predictive analytics -- to compete and succeed. Enterprise intelligence's momentum was underscored in IDC's Worldwide Business Analytics report. SAS (not SAP) fared very well in the report.

The SAP-Business Objects acquisition raises questions in the minds of Business Object's and SAP customers about integration, product overlap and future product roadmaps, and in the minds of customers of other vendors who are in buying cycles (for example, for Cognos for financial performance management and BI, or Informatica for data integration). They'll be revaluating their short list, given the increased risk to the stability and independence of these vendors.

We have no intention of getting acquired and are not in play given our strong performance. SAS will continue to develop its existing partnerships with the likes of Accenture, HP, Intel, Sun and others, and roll out new partnerships like the one announced with Teradata.

Customers should ask:

  • Where are the analytics? Like SAP, Business Objects lacks analytics beyond simple descriptive statistics and the recently added text mining capabilities from Inxight. What's particularly lacking are predictive analytics (data mining, forecasting, optimization), the kind that help leading companies differentiate, compete and succeed. This acquisition still does not provide an integrated platform including data integration, storage, BI and analytics.
  • Where are the BI solutions that address specific business and vertical industry issues? While SAP has vertical and horizontal domain expertise -- it is not in the BI area. The acquisition of Business Objects does not overcome this deficiency.
  • Where are the performance management capabilities for human resources, IT and internal operations and the procurement office?
  • Both companies have had recent acquisitions that result in overlap of product functionality. Consequently, customers will take a wait-and-see approach looking for the roadmap defining what products will remain in the portfolio. Question will arise such as:
    • Cartesis [acquired by Business Objects] and OutlookSoft [acquired by SAP earlier this year] both provide financial performance management capabilities. How will this be resolved?
    • How does SAP plan to address the ongoing spat between Business Objects and SAP OEM partner Informatica on patent infringement?

We anticipate a ripple effect in the BI/PM market in general. What happens to Cognos, the only remaining big BI vendor with no robust data integration? Will they be bought by IBM or another larger vendor? There will be continued speculation on their independence. Informatica recently issued a press release touting their relationship with SAP for integrating third-party data; Business Objects also has competing data integration capabilities. This jeopardizes any revenue opportunities that Informatica was hoping to capitalize on with the SAP relationship. The only partner left standing for Informatica is Cognos and Cognos' future is more in question than their own.

TIBCO Spotfire Division, Somerville, Mass.
Roger Oberg, vice president of product strategy

We don't see this as a threat. Unlike traditional BI tools like Business Objects which emphasize centrally managed reports and dashboards, Spotfire's interactive, visual capabilities for data analysis help line of business users across organizations easily spot trends, outliers, and insights in the information they use every day without having to wait for new reports.

Any BI customer, including Business Objects customers, needs to take a look at their current deployment and determine if end users are adopting the technology, and if the solution is helping enable decision-making in the context of a mission-critical business process that invariably spans multiple data sources, including real-time data. We frequently hear from customers that they want solutions that deliver real-time decision-making for end-users across the organization. How will SAP/Business Objects address this trend?

We continue to work with customers who are looking to deploy Spotfire as a way to augment their current BI tools and get more ROI from their existing data investments. This is another signal that traditional BI is becoming part of the application infrastructure stack.

BI/CPM vendors, we're still accepting comments. Email us for more information about participating.

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