Dashboard: Business Objects Runs New Race

With the rollout of its new enterprise information management strategy, Business Objects looks to cover all the bases by integrating each of its EIM applications into Business Objects XI.

The rollout of its new enterprise information management (EIM) strategy makes Business Objects the first BI vendor to make the difficult move into EIM. Cognos has a tool for ETL (extract, transfer, load), while Hyperion purchased its partner Upstream to enhance financial data quality. Business Objects, however, is looking to cover all the bases by integrating each of its EIM applications to Business Objects XI.

"There's no question that buyers want to purchase suites of products that inherently work together," notes John Hagerty, vice president at AMR Research.

Business Objects' products include two new tools for enterprise information integration. Data Federator gives users a virtual, consolidated view of data from many sources without moving the data into one database. Users can perform queries against real-time data from CRM, ERP and other systems. Data Integrator, an ETL tool, lets users physically move data from disparate sources and fuse them in data warehouses and marts.

In addition to its data integration products, Business Objects introduced Metadata Manager, which collects and unifies ETL, relational databases and third-party metadata. It is designed to allow administrators to analyze and explore metadata relationships and business rules within a business intelligence environment. Complementing these tools is the data quality software Business Objects acquired with Firstlogic, which lets users profile, cleanse and monitor data. This, according to Hagerty, is the truly unique piece in the vendor's EIM strategy.

"Increasingly, inquiries from user companies are veering into the analytic infrastructure area: How do I guarantee the lineage of the data in the data warehouse/data mart? How do I rationalize similar data elements into one common view of information for my business? How do I federate info across many different sources?" says Hagerty. This capability will only continue to grow in importance. --Thomas Jamieson

Heads Up: BI Leaders Join On-Demand Fray

SAS Institute and Business Objects have both recently begun hosting business intelligence software.

Business Objects is hosting a version of Crystal Reports for users wanting to share reports with staff, customers and partners who may lack the client software. The offering appears to be targeted at small and midsize businesses (SMBs), for which the ability to publish reports that 50 to 60 people can view easily over the Web should be useful. "Business Objects is laying down a gauntlet and saying, we can do this, can anybody else?" says Keith Gile, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Shortly after the Business Objects announcement, SAS revealed it will host its complete BI platform, along with supplier relationship management, marketing automation, marketing relationship management and anti-money-laundering tools. SAS had already offered on-demand Web analytics. Meanwhile, smaller vendors, including Oco and Host Analytics, have recently rolled out hosted business performance management tools.

The pricing and IT support of these offerings should appeal to some businesses, particularly SMBs. Yet the typical questions surrounding hosted software--Is it secure enough? Is it customizable enough?--apply all the more so to BI software.

"Most organizations are very particular about how they do business intelligence," Gile says. "There's a lot of ad hoc analysis and report creation on the fly. If you think your competitive advantage is how you interpret data differently than your competitors, the last thing you want to do is expose it and have it be turned into the best practices of the hosting company. BI tends to be a guarded secret in many organizations." --Penny Crosman