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8/12/2008
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SAP Business Objects Takes Next Steps on Performance Management, BI

Outlooksoft, Pilot and Cartesis applications 'integrated' with NetWeaver and BusinessObjects XI. Xcelsius presentation app hits the desktop, while SAP customers get free Crystal.

Business Objects, an SAP company, today delivered on its enterprise performance management (EPM) road map, while also announcing a new desktop presentation tool and a free bundling of its Crystal Reports tool for customers of SAP Business One, the small-business-focused ERP system. The series of announcements was made in Boston at a meeting with analysts and press in which the company said it is number one in EPM and Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) applications as well as in BI. The question is, just how well integrated are the applications and platforms at this point?

Delivering on a roadmap laid out soon after SAP's acquisition of Business Objects, the company today announced SAP Strategy Management 7.0, SAP Business Planning and Consolidation 7.0, BusinessObjects Financial Consolidation 7.0 and BusinessObjects Profitability and Cost Management 7.0. These applications were formerly from Pilot Software, OutlookSoft, Cartesis and ALG products, respectively, but they're now said to be integrated with SAP NetWeaver and the Business Objects BI platform.

"Strategy Management and Business Planning and Consolidation can now natively access core ERP data in the NetWeaver platform as well as in SAP Business Warehouse," says Sanjay Poonen, senior vice president of Performance Optimization Applications at Business Objects. "We also announced earlier this year a platform release of BusinessObjects XI that has integration to SAP so you can take advantage of BI capabilities like dashboarding, query, reporting and analysis, which are complementary to performance management analysis."

BusinessObjects Financial Consolidation, the former Cartesis product, is offered despite the overlap with SAP Business Planning and Consolidation because it offers "a high-end solution exclusively for consolidation," Poonen says. The Cartesis product was particularly popular in Europe and among multinational corporations with challenging consolidation requirements.

Taking a jab at Oracle, which introduced its first profitability and cost management application last month, Poonen says SAP's latest release in that area is a proven application built on ALG's 10 years of experience in profitability and cost management.

The SAP-Business Objects releases come just a few weeks after Oracle announced the "final integration" of the acquired Hyperion EPM portfolio with Oracle BI Enterprise Edition, news that led Gartner analyst Kurt Schlegel to qualify the term "integrated."

"There are various levels of product integration," comments Schlegel, listing portal-level integration, common security, common metadata, common look and feel, common administration, and consistent navigation. "All the mega vendors will be busy integrating their BI and performance management product portfolios for some time to come."

Poonen says SAP-Business Objects has standardized primarily around Web and Microsoft Office interfaces, but it may be some time before analysts can drill down on the details of architectural and administrative integration achieved to date.

SAP-Business Objects advanced its EPM portfolio in two ways. First, the company introduced SAP Spend Analytics, an all-new application designed to provide better visibility into purchasing detail so companies can devise better procurement strategies and control purchasing patterns. Second, it announced integrations between its EPM applications and the SAP GRC environment, a link said to ensure deeper visibility into unified information, better support for decision-making and better organizational alignment.

"Risk is at the forefront of everyone's thinking these days," Poonen says. "If you're looking at the strategic priorities on a balanced scorecard, you might also have a heat map showing the red, yellow and green related risks. [With this integration between EPM and GRC] you could click on that heat map and see the related risk factors within the GRC application."

On the BI front, Business Objects released Xcelsius Present, a desktop version of its data visualization software that creates interactive Excel-based presentation models that can be embedded within PowerPoint or Adobe 9 PDF presentations.

"Instead of having to create 20 slides to tell your story within PowerPoint, Xcelsius Present lets you create a multitabbed model that gives you all the interaction and manipulation of the data within a single slide," says James Thomas, vice president of Volume Products at Business Objects.

Released today, Xcelsius Present costs $195 per seat, but volume discounts are available.

Giving SAP customers a free taste of Business Objects software, the vendor also announced that the more than 20,000 small businesses that use SAP Business One ERP software can now download a free version of Crystal Reports. Designed for companies with fewer than 100 employees, Business One incorporates a number of built-in reporting tools, but SAP says none is as complete or as adept as Crystal Reports. Data drivers have been removed from the free version of the software, so it works only with Business One data. Those who want to use the tool for broader reporting needs will have to upgrade to the full version of the software, which retails at $489.

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