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Business Objects Brings Planning and Budgeting to the Midmarket

Performance Management module stands alone or complements Edge Series platform aimed at midsize businesses.
Placing the capstone on the midmarket portfolio it announced early this year, Business Objects today released BusinessOjects Edge Planning, a stand-alone performance management product designed for financial planning and budgeting. The module is designed to stand alone or complement the Standard, Professional or Premium editions of the Edge Series (formerly Crystal Decisions) business intelligence platform.

"We offer scorecarding in our Premium edition, but what we were missing was planning and budgeting," explains Todd Rowe, vice-president and general manager, worldwide mid-market business at Business Objects. "We could have created a fourth step in the Edge series, but we recognized that this is a product for the finance team, not IT or sales and marketing, so we didn't want to create a price penalty [for those not looking for BI or capabilities beyond what the Standard edition offers]."

To ensure rapid deployment, Edge Planning incorporates prepackaged applications for strategic planning, capital planning, payroll planning, productivity management and incentive compensation management. A unified workflow takes users through planning in step-by-step, wizard-based fashion. The user interface is described as "Excel-like" (though it's not a port or plug-in to Excel), making it familiar to casual users. Visual modeling lets users manipulate projections for what-if forecasting and scenario planning.

Missing from Edge Planning is financial consolidation capabilities. "That's usually something for companies that have multiple divisions, so for companies with 100 to 500 employees, it's not as big an aspect for small and midsized companies," says Rowe, adding that consolidation is available in Business Object's enterprise-level performance management product.

Consolidation certainly is important to many companies at the upper reaches of Business Objects' Edge target market — those with more than 500 employees and $500 million in revenue — particularly if those companies operate internationally.

And what about the future of the Edge Planning given the pending acquisition by SAP? "We'll continue to support Edge Planning, but within four quarters, we're also going to offer a migration path to something called the Superset," says Rowe. "That's where we'll create one unified platform and architecture between the SAP and Business Objects planning and budgeting products."

SAP and Business Objects will be able to say more about what the Superset will eventually include upon the completion of Business Object's acquisition in the first quarter of 2008.

Edge Planning licensing starts at $25,000 for 10 named users and tops out at $75,000 for 60 named users, with additional user licenses costing $1,250 to $2,500, depending on overall seat volumes. The product started shipping today. The primary competition is likely to be Microsoft Performance Point, a product that does include consolidation and that starts at $20,000 per server and $195 per client access license.