Standardisation is the new buzzword at Franco-American business intelligence (BI) software company Business Objects. Faced with a slowdown in technology investment, Business Objects' message to organisations is that if they standardise on one BI platform, then the management of the underlying software is streamlined, employees can gain more flexible access to the system, and integration headaches disappear.
That message has proved convincing. In the first quarter of 2002, the company signed 56 over $200,000, four of which were worth more than $1 million. Many of these are existing customers who are switching from the traditional ‘full client' deployment of the BusinessObjects toolset to the thin web client-based WebIntelligence product that can be rolled out to a much wider group of users. Oil giant British Petroleum, for example, has standardised its BI investment across 19,000 users in 35 countries.
Aside from its suite approach, Business Objects is now also trying to exploit the customer trend beyond tools to analytic applications – an area where it competes with analytics players such as SAS Institute, Informatica and Hyperion. Take-up of Business Objects' analytics tools – packages for customer, product, service, supply chain and operations analysis – has been rapid. Revenue in analytic applications rose 165% in the first quarter.
Business Objects is also taking advantage of customers' desire to deliver information outside of their corporate walls to suppliers and partners. Extranet software deals accounted for 20% of the company's overall business during the 2001 financial year. Supporting that development, in January 2002 the company acquired UK-based information delivery software specialist Blue Edge Software, whose technology takes personalised reports and distributes them to desktops across organisations.
That breadth of coverage draws plenty of plaudits. According to Gartner Group, Business Objects has pulled further ahead of its rivals in the BI market both in terms its product strategy and its business execution. The ongoing challenge is to ensure that its standardisation mantra is not equated with a lack innovation.