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11/7/2005
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Business Objects Gathers The Faithful

Business intelligence vendor debuts planning for the retail industry at its annual user conference

Business Objects SA is wasting no time putting to work its recent acquisitions.

Monday the business intelligence software vendor unveiled new planning and budgeting applications for the retail industry based on technology from its $100 million acquisition of SRC Software Inc. in August. And next week the company will unveil Crystal Xcelsius, interactive visual analytical software acquired last week in a $40 million buyout of privately held Infommersion Inc.

Business Objects announced the new software at its Insight annual user conference in Orlando. About 2,000 customers attended the conference.

The user conference was also the first for John Schwarz who was named Business Objects' CEO in September. Company founder Bernard Liautaud decided to step down from that post and hired Schwarz to manage the company while he plots long-range strategy as chief strategy officer. Liautaud also remains chairman. Schwarz was previously president of Symantec Corp. and before that held a number of management posts at IBM for 25 years.

In his keynote speech and again in an interview, Schwarz said his first management steps have focused on improving service and customer support. Company developers will focus on supporting the needs of existing customers rather than just building leading-edge software. And a development priority will be to make Business Objects' products more "self-healing" and "less support-heavy" for customers, he said.

Business Objects recently achieved $1 billion in annual revenue.

The new Business Objects Planning for Retail package provides financial forecasting, budgeting, payroll planning, and plan reporting applications specifically tailored for the retail industry. Retailers can use the software to help sales, finance, and operational managers share information for decision-making. Financial managers can incorporate operational supply chain data into their budgets, for example.

At the conference Business Objects executives also provided information about Crystal Xcelsius, which the company will debut next Monday. The software makes it easy for non-technical information workers to access and graphically display data in Excel spreadsheets without the need for developers to build reports, said product marketing director James Thomas. In the future Business Objects will likely use the interactive software as a front end for other Business Objects products, Thomas said.

Business Objects executives also reiterated their promise to beginning shipping Business Objects XI Release 2, the next major release of the company's flagship business intelligence software, before the end of the year. In interviews several customers said they were eager to implement the release, which fully unifies the company's Business Objects and Web Intelligence software with its Crystal Reports product line.

Allstate Insurance Company will be implementing Business Objects XI Release 2 through 2006 and 2007 to unite its Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports systems which together serve some 26,000 users, said James Young, senior manager of enterprise business intelligence. Allstate will use the new release to build new business intelligence dashboards and scorecard systems, begin developing predictive analysis software, and more tightly link its BI systems to its SAP applications, he said.

Michael Strachan, VP of data warehouse/data marts, business intelligence and customer relationship management at Morgan Stanley, also wants to use Business Objects XI Release 2 to build dashboards and scorecards for improved reporting capabilities for branch managers. He's also looking forward to the software's Intelligent Question feature that allows users to build queries using pull-down menus. "It's a great, great component because it's so business-oriented," he said.

Business Objects also announced a beta release of Crystal Reports for Eclipse, a version of the reporting software that developers can embed within Java applications. The vendor also announced a reseller deal under which it will build real-time predictive analysis software from ThinkAnalytics Ltd. into its performance management applications.

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