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Business Objects builds out corporate analytics package

Business Objects has its foot on the gas in the packaged analytics market, and is readying new modules for the supply chain and human resources areas that will bring its analytics suite up to seven applications.

Business Objects has its foot on the gas in the packaged analytics market, and is readying new modules for the supply chain and human resources areas that will bring its analytics suite up to seven applications. Additional customer intelligence modules for product and customer center analysis are being added to the three it already offers -- customer, sales and campaign analytics.

Background: Business Objects sees analytics as nothing other than a long-overdue maturing of the business intelligence tools market into packaged applications. Other transitions -- from Cobol ledgers to Oracle Financials or SAP General Ledger, for example -- have mostly come to pass already, it observes.

Competition: Of course Business Objects believes it has a better handle on the end-user requirement than competitors such as Informatica, Cognos, Brio and MicroStrategy, having been created in the first place to make Oracle make sense to users. Although it maintains it will still work with ETL shop Informatica (Informatica puts data into warehouses, while Business Objects takes it out and puts it into reports for users), it's clear the two are going to square off in the analytics space, and have realigned their OEM programs accordingly.

In reporting, Actuate is probably Business Objects' biggest direct competitor, and is attempting to move up the food chain. But the technologies are also complementary in that Actuate enables developers to create report formats and templates that can be expressed by users in Excel, while Business Objects enables users to create their own reports.

In other areas, Business Objects will continue to partner to add depth and breadth to analytics, such as in its recent deals with White Light and IDE.

What's interesting, notes Business Objects, is that Informatica is so confident of its newfound abilities to deliver end-user solutions that it's formed an open business intelligence partnership program. "Just in case their customers don't want to use the Informatica front end," says a Business Objects spokesman. "You don't see other apps vendors signing up 'front-end' partners." Nevertheless, Business Objects will be part of Informatica's open BI partner program. It puts it on a level playing field with the rest of the program participants.

Financial impact: Business Objects' analytics revenue grew 76% in the last quarter, but even so, it won't be worth more than 20% of its 2002 license revenue, according to Merrill Lynch. The analytics opportunity is that it is the next engine for growth in the business intelligence market.

Technology: Offering its own database schema for data, which is not tied to the use of any database or data source, is a clear differentiator for Business Objects. Enabling customers to write their own analytics applications using its Application Foundation (the same tools Business Objects has used to write its analytics suite), rather than offering a stovepipe approach, is another distinction.

Conclusion: Although the current crop of analytics products are designed for the corporate market, it's not hard to see where the business intelligence companies will be looking down the road, as extranet functionality spills over from employees and partners to customers and consumers. Giving users of Internet-based services the ability to analyze spending, whether in financial accounts or paying bills, is a natural extension of consumer services.

Within a year, there will likely be consolidation as the market becomes real and rationalizes around market leaders, and companies buy others to build out functionality.

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