Behind the Business Objects-Oco SaaS Deal - InformationWeek

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7/30/2008
09:26 AM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Behind the Business Objects-Oco SaaS Deal

Earlier this month I saw a press release with the headline "Oco and Business Objects Sign Deal... " What does Business Objects, an SAP Company, the world's largest BI vendor and a software-as-a-service (SaaS) force in its own right, have to gain from Oco, an upstart SaaS vendor that's a fraction of Business Object's size? Business Objects executive Mani Gill filled me in on the details.

Earlier this month I saw a press release with the headline "Oco and Business Objects Sign Deal... " Vendor partnerships don't usually float up to my must-cover list, but this one peaked my interest. After all, what does Business Objects, an SAP Company, the world's largest BI vendor and a software-as-a-service (SaaS) force in its own right, have to gain from Oco Inc., an upstart SaaS vendor that's a fraction of Business Object's size? Business Objects executive Mani Gill filled me in on the details.To set the stage, Business Object's SaaS assets include four distinct offerings. CrystalReports.com dates back to February 2006 and was the company's first foray into SaaS. The service lets customers perform analyses and generate reports on in-house data as well as data within Salesforce.com deployments. OnDemand Business Applications is what became of Nsite.com, an on-demand application service that had more than 27,000 customers when Business Objects acquired it in December 2006. That deal was primarily about acquiring NSite SaaS infrastructure, but the application set has since grown.

The two latest pieces of Business Objects' SaaS portfolio were introduced last fall. The first, Information OnDemand, offers a collection of third-party information, from sources including Dun & Bradstreet and Thomson Financial, that can be tapped from a single, services-based source for data enrichment. The second, Business Intelligence OnDemand, is a SaaS-delivered BI platform based on the vendor's conventional software.

Oco's roots date back to 1999, but I first encountered the company in early 2007 as case studies started to emerge around Dunkin Brands and Casual Male. The company provides SaaS-based data warehousing and analytics with the promise of building a multi-source data warehouses in six to eight weeks. Retailers were the initial center of attention, but Oco has since branched out into manufacturing and transportation logistics (see my case study on Welch's, the well-known purveyor of grape jellies, jams and juice products).

So why are Business Objects and Oco teaming up? "The discussion started because Oco was having trouble providing all the necessary BI platform technologies to its customers," explains Mani Gill, vice president of OnDemand at Business Objects. "We'll now provide Oco with that platform technology, and what Oco brings us is schemas and deep expertise in industry verticals."

Essentially, then, Oco gets a new back-end for managing users and creating and running reports and dashboards, and Business Intelligence OnDemand gains data models and analytics for retail, manufacturing, transportation and whatever else Oco comes up with. "Oco has built intellectual property that reduces the time to value in mapping customer data into these schemas," says Gill.

Reading between the lines a bit, Business Objects taps Oco for selected deals through a joint offering incorporating its technology while Oco builds its business on a Business Objects back end. "We believe this alliance... will benefit our customers and accelerate market adoption of SaaS-based BI," said William Copacino, president and CEO of Oco.

Gill stressed that Oco is "just one partner" on the SaaS front, and that Business Objects is seeking other partnerships for industry vertical expertise. That said, I'd guess that Oco will now concentrate on adding new verticals and rolling out additional schemas, and the more joint sales it can score with Business Objects, the more likely it is to eventually become a wholly owned part of the BI giant's portfolio.Earlier this month I saw a press release with the headline "Oco and Business Objects Sign Deal... " What does Business Objects, an SAP Company, the world's largest BI vendor and a software-as-a-service (SaaS) force in its own right, have to gain from Oco, an upstart SaaS vendor that's a fraction of Business Object's size? Business Objects executive Mani Gill filled me in on the details.

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