Software // Information Management
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2/5/2007
05:31 PM
Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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Don't Let the 'Crystal Decisions' Name Fool You

At first blush, Business Objects' midmarket announcement seemed to me more of the same strategy they've been talking about for the last few years: to pursue both the enterprise BI segment as well as the SMB segment. The difference is in the details, though, and this latest announcement shows a much higher degree of activity and focus.

At first blush, Business Objects' midmarket announcement seemed to me more of the same strategy they've been talking about for the last few years: to pursue both the enterprise BI segment as well as the SMB segment. The difference is in the details, though, and this latest announcement shows a much higher degree of activity and focus. In the enterprise BI space, it's a bit of a cat fight for market share, with Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion and MicroStrategy continuing to claw at each other. In the SMB space, the market is much more fragmented. While Microsoft certainly wins for brand recognition, there are dozens of other niche players including QlikTech, Celequest (acquired by Cognos last month), and Dimensional Insight to name a few. Business Objects officials concede the biggest competitor in the SMB space is limited BI awareness. Rarely will you see BI discussed in SMB-focused magazines (Inc, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business). Many SMBs still think that reports - any reports - out of accounting systems are just fine.In this regard, Business Objects is wise to leverage the Crystal brand and is calling the new product Crystal Decisions. Yet don't let the name fool you - they've packed a lot more capabilities in this product than that which was acquired from the company Crystal Decisions. In addition to embedded or operational reporting (via Crystal Reports), the new SMB product has ad hoc reporting (aka Web Intelligence), visualization (aka Xcelcius), Office integration (aka Live Office) to name a few features in the SMB Standard Edition.

Pursuing the SMB segment is a smart strategy given the growth opportunities and market fragmentation. Winning this segment, though, will be no easy task. The vendor has some distinct advantages though. Its BI solution is one of the easiest to install, yes, even beating Microsoft's BI solution. While installation is a really, really small part of a BI deployment, in companies with little to no IT resources, it can be a major barrier even to exploring BI. With lack of market awareness a major hurdle, the company also has a little gem that I think it could leverage more: its regional user groups --well-established, user-run and something few other BI vendors have.

The partner network also will be pivotal in ramping up its efforts here. Given that Business Objects has its own professional services, partners sometimes have a love-hate relationship with the vendor. Business Objects officials say there should be less channel conflict going forward as served segments are better differentiated. Time will tell.

About that Oracle acquisition rumor: that rumor resurfaces every couple of years and certainly has been more intense of late. With Oracle's acquisition of Siebel and the Siebel Analytics product line, I think such acquisition would be quite a mess with significant product overlap. Perhaps it's one way to buy market share and serve share holders, but whatever happened to serving the other big interest group: customers?

In addition to authoring BIScorecard reports, Cindi Howson is the author of Business Objects XI: The Complete Reference, published by McGraw-Hill Osborne Media.At first blush, Business Objects' midmarket announcement seemed to me more of the same strategy they've been talking about for the last few years: to pursue both the enterprise BI segment as well as the SMB segment. The difference is in the details, though, and this latest announcement shows a much higher degree of activity and focus.

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