With many forks in the path ahead for customers and partners of Business Objects, Kagermann's video created more uncertainty than comfort. SAP's BI and Performance Management strategy has changed dramatically since the departure of Shai Agassi, who I believe, looking back, was holding SAP's strategy steady and avoiding acquisition chaos, as I pointed out in this blog.For some reason the Business Objects conference had a drop in attendance from the previous year's event, but the 1,800 in attendance got a good spectrum of knowledge on what's new in the vendor's BI and Performance Management offerings. Not to miss the opportunity to highlight innovation, Liautaud orchestrated a series of demonstrations on next-generation technologies called "full-spectrum BI." Reinforcing the company's vision for BI 2.0 from last year, he added context on where he sees the BI market heading. One example was a demo on the integration of search and dynamic selection of attributes and data, and it appeared to be much easier than the current approach in BusinessObjects Enterprise. Another demo highlighted text analytics technology from the Inxight acquisition that is now a part of BusinessObjects Text Analysis. The product finds associations and relationships among text from a broad range of documents, email messages and content. These examples were very powerful, but they have to be reexamined in light of the planned acquisition. Will Business Objects continue to innovate and move quickly once it's part of SAP?
A big highlight of the event for me was a demonstration of powerful capabilities in the on-demand area. Business Objects wowed the audience with a demonstration of how you can bring together third-party information with enterprise data to show the full value of BI - an approach that clearly has a big future. With Crystal Reports OnDemand, Business Objects is off to a strong start in the SaaS arena with a base of about 35,000 who have tried it and another 35,000 who have paid for the service. There's great potential to expand into line-of-business areas in which you can't wait for long IT project cycles to access information and BI.
Pleasing the many BI managers and developers in attendance, Business Objects unveiled the long-awaited CrystalReports 2008. This release brings new interactivity and scalability to the well-known reporting product. Activating once static reports, the product lets you sort, filter, perform simple analyses and handle a range of other activities. With simpler report design and deployment, and embedded visualization using Excelsius, this is not the CrystalReports you might have seen in the past. The enhancements come with a cost, however, as Business Objects has changed the packaging to offer just one price for all the functionality. Nonetheless, it's clearly a more productive BI product.
Read my next blog to hear about the not-so-good aspects of what may lie ahead for Business Objects customers in light of the pending SAP acquisition.
Mark Smith is CEO And Senior Vice President of Research at Ventana Research. Write to him at [email protected].My trip to the recent Business Objects user conference in Orlando, Fla., revealed many good surprises as well as many big questions yet to be answered. Business Objects founder and chairman Bernard Liautaud addressed the deal during the opening of the event, and his comments quickly transitioned to those of SAP CEO Henning Kagermann (by way of video)... But with many forks in the path ahead for customers and partners of Business Objects, Kagermann's video instilled little comfort.