Business Objects Launches BI OnDemand - InformationWeek

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Business Objects Launches BI OnDemand

The new software-as-a-service offering provides subscribers with advanced BI features, such as formatted reporting, dashboards and ad-hoc query and analysis.

Business Objects on Monday launched an online version of its business intelligence suite, giving subscribers the option of keeping their data in-house, or storing it with BO.

Business Intelligence OnDemand is built on CrystalReports.com, the company's first software-as-a-service offering. CrystalReports.com, launched in February 2006, gives subscribers the option of performing analysis and generating reports on in-house data, or integrating the on-demand software with Salesforce.com, an online customer relationship management system.

BI OnDemand offers subscribers access to more BI functions, such as formatted reporting, dashboards and ad-hoc query and analysis. Customers, for example, could build their own queries and custom reports for sales territory planning, compensation analysis, and point-of-sale analytics for customer segmentation. For Salesforce.com subscribers, BI OnDemand provides more in-depth analysis of large datasets.

Mark Smith, chief executive and senior VP of research at Ventana Research, said the announcement is a "pretty big deal" because Business Objects, which is the largest pure-play business intelligence vendor, has made a strong commitment to software as a service. "There have been smaller vendors, but as a big company selling software predominantly for organizations to install and deploy, it's a pretty big move for them to take this on," Smith said.

Customers are the driving force behind the trend toward on-demand BI, Smith said. "Organizations want BI faster, and this helps reduce a chunk of the time spent to install software," he said. "(SaaS) reduces the complexity that bogs down IT projects in companies."

BO on Monday also launched Information OnDemand, which makes third-party market information available as a separate service or through BI OnDemand. Information is delivered through pre-built reports and dashboards. Content providers include Thomson Financial, Dun & Bradstreet, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce; and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Most companies are very inwardly focused, which is good. But what's really important is knowing if you're growing faster than the competition, or if you're growing faster than the industry average," Steve Williams, product manager for BO's on-demand offerings, said. "You're comparing the micro-economic view inside your organization to the macro-economic view outside your organization."

Information OnDemand also draws market data from online auction-house EBay. Available information includes sales and market numbers for top-selling brands, and geographic and demographic data for purchases. A retailer, for example, could use EBay sales patterns for a product by state from May to June in order to understand where market demand is high, or supply may be running low. Such information could be useful in creating a marketing promotion for a region, or to analyze price sensitivity to new product releases.

"Those are all good things because BI isn't just about structured data," Smith said of the content in Information OnDemand. "It's about getting the information you need for your business."

Business Objects claims to have more than 50,000 subscribers to CrystalReports.com. The company, however, doesn't release the number or size of companies using the service. While not making any forecasts, Williams said the company would like to have at least a quarter of its revenue coming from online software by 2011, which is Gartner's projection for the BI industry, according to BO.

In looking at BI software, potential customers typically want to know what a vendor is offering online, Williams said. "For most customers -- big or small -- on-demand is always part of the evaluation process," Williams said. "We see customers taking an evolutionary approach to on-demand, rather that a revolutionary approach."

Pricing for BI OnDemand starts at $99 per month, following an activation fee of $10,000 or more, depending on the amount of data. Information OnDemand starts at $150 per report. There's also a subscription service that starts at $2,000 per month for up to five users. The service offers an unlimited number of reports.

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