John Schwarz, CEO of Business Objects should be used to consolidation within the business intelligence (BI) market: his company is responsible for a significant proportion of it.
But there is a question that hangs over every pure-play BI vendor: With increasing competition in the market, is focusing solely on BI tools going to be sufficient to survive and thrive?
Schwarz is keen to laugh off any imminent threat to Business Objects: there is a distinct advantage in being an independent BI vendor, he argues. “Our main differentiator is that we focus solely on business intelligence,” he says. “And we intend to stay focused on it.”
But having initiated a wave of consolidation throughout the BI market with its acquisition of reporting tool maker Crystal Decisions – not to mention more recent purchases of data quality vendor Firstlogic, Infomersion for presentation software, Mediance for enterprise information integration, and SRC for performance management – Schwarz will be only too aware that the competitive landscape is changing.
The giants of the software industry are circling the BI market, and here’s why: analysts at Forrester Research predict that global BI spending will reach $7.3 billion by 2008. That sort of growth has captured the attention of executives at Microsoft, Oracle and IBM.
“Our main differentiator is that we focus solely on business intelligence. And we intend to stay focused on it.”
John Schwarz, Business Objects
To counter that threat of moving from hunter to hunted, Schwarz knows that he has to convince his customers that the company’s recent acquisition spree has been in their interests. And it is taking time to migrate existing customers onto Business Objects new unified BI platform, XI Release 2.
According to Alys Woodward, a senior analyst at Ovum, the slowdown in upgrading to Business Objects XI is expected to continue for the next six months, despite Business Objects increasing its services team to aid customers with migration. Company executives are also pushing new features, such as a range of migration wizards to ease transition, in the recently released Business Objects XI Release 2.
Business Objects has also released a series of enterprise information management tools for data management and cleaning, a move that puts it in direct competition with IBM and Oracle, both of which have traditionally been partners of Business Objects.
Schwarz recognises the apparent contradiction of this partner-competitor relationship. “Everyone we partner with is a potential competitor now,” he says. “But the key is to make sure that the co-operation works as well as possible.”
New revenue streams are also being pursued with the launch in April 2006 of its new SaaS (software as a service) Crystal Reports package, crystalreports.com, that follows independently from the on-demand version of Crystal Reports, hosted in partnership with Saleforce.com’s AppExchange system.
While Schwarz maintains that BI remains the single most important tool to unlock data hidden away within the enterprise, there is a growing recognition that BI’s focus on structured data is a limiting factor. Already IBM and IT services group Accenture have invested heavily in practices dedicated to analysing structured and unstructured data together to provide a holistic enterprise information management system.
Business Objects’ executives are aware of the imminent danger of being left on the sidelines here: “It is something we are looking at it,” says Timo Elliot, senior director of strategic marketing at Business Objects.