By Mike Schiff
In a series of announcements that included a new visualization tool, the integration of Crystal Reports with SAP Business One, and new and/or enhanced enterprise performance management analytic applications, SAP and Business Objects follow through on their commitment to integrate the two companies' technologies while still offering the Business Objects product portfolio independent of any SAP technology.
We examine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats behind this news.
- BusinessObjects Xcelsius Present is a business-user-friendly offering that integrates with Microsoft Office to produce and deliver interactive data visualizations including "what-if" analyses. This relatively low-cost offering includes several visualization templates for business functions including sales, marketing, finance, and human resources.
- Although the new versions of Business Objects enterprise performance management analytic applications integrate with SAP solutions for governance, risk, and compliance, they can also be deployed independent of any SAP software.
- Organizations deploying SAP Business One, the application software targeted at businesses with 100 or fewer employees, will receive a free integrated copy of Crystal Reports. This will allow them to use SAP software for both their operational and reporting and analysis needs.
- It provides additional evidence that, contrary to the fear, uncertainty, and doubt created by some of its BI competitors, Business Objects (now an SAP business unit) continues to improve its products with enhancements and new functionality and that it is certainly not evolving into an SAP-centric platform.
- The announcements were made at the Business Objects Influencer Summit where the products were the subject of several presentations. They were heard by an influential audience of industry analysts and press who, for the most part, viewed them favorably. As this occurred the week prior to the TDWI World Conference in San Diego, it also served to draw well-qualified prospects to the SAP/Business Objects booth.
- Competitors may attempt to portray the integration of SAP and Business Objects products as proof that the Business Objects offerings are evolving to become SAP-centric. These competitors will not bother to mention that this integration was planned prior to SAP's acquisition of Business Objects and that the Business Objects technology will continue to be offered independent of SAP's technology.
- As Business Objects now has several products and/or bundling options within each product family (e.g., Xcelsius, Xcelsius Engage, Xcelsius Present) it is not always obvious to prospects as to which product version does what.
- SAP Business One currently includes XL Reporter, a reporting and analysis tool, that has some overlapping functionality with Crystal Reports. This may raise concerns about the future of XL Reporter.
- Although the Business Objects Xcelsius offerings are impressive and easy to use, other BI vendors have recently expanded or improved their visualization technology.
- Providing SAP Business One users with a version of Crystal Reports will serve to expose many Business One users to BI tools other than spreadsheets and will provide SAP/Business Objects with lucrative up-selling opportunities in support of its focus on small and mid-size (SMB) organizations.
- The integration of Business Objects and SAP technology allows the Business Objects portfolio to be credibly positioned as ideal for organizations that utilize SAP's enterprise application software.
- By continuing to also demonstrate that Business Objects retains its "application-agnostic" heritage, SAP can continue to market the Business Objects portfolio to non-SAP application environments and use them to gain a foothold for future SAP application sales.
- By recognizing the interdependence between enterprise performance management (EPM) and governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), and by applying business intelligence to discover, analyze, and resolve operational issues, SAP/Business Objects is well-positioned to provide solutions that address both tactical and strategic management concerns.
- In general, the open source movement poses a threat to all vendors of proprietary business intelligence technology, including SAP/Business Objects. Although large commitments to open source BI technology is still the exception rather than the rule, many organizations have pilot projects underway and are using the threat of expanding their open source deployments to gain leverage with vendors of proprietary BI technology.
- SAP is certainly not the only enterprise application vendor to offer strong business intelligence technology and will continue to face stiff competition from Oracle and its acquired Hyperion and Siebel BI technology. Many users deploy SAP enterprise applications on an Oracle database thus providing Oracle with an entry point into SAP accounts.
- Independent BI specialists will continue to position their offerings as open to all databases and applications while raising questions and concerns about BI offerings from database and/or applications vendors.
- In general, where Business Objects and SAP currently have products with overlapping functionality, BI competitors will attempt to convince prospects that the ones they are competing against will be ultimately be replaced by the other SAP/Business Objects solution.
About the Author
Michael A. Schiff is a principal consultant for MAS Strategies. He can be reached at email@example.com
Source: Enterprise Systems
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