Business Objects Introduces SOX Compliance Offering

With compliance deadlines looming, is it too little, too late?

This week, Business Objects joined a number of other BI vendors that have introduced solutions for compliance management. The BI giant touted its new Sarbanes-Oxley Analytic Solution, which is based on its Business Objects Analytics software stack.

Because business intelligence tools are closely tied to budgeting, financial reporting, and business performance, Hyperion Solutions Corp., SAS Institute Inc., and other BI vendors have introduced compliance-related offerings. And because many of the most important SOX provisions—e.g., Section 302, Section 404 and Section 409—deal with reporting controls and procedures, Business Objects and other BI vendors believe it’s an area of compliance management in which they have valuable contributions to make.

When it fleshed out its analytic applications stack several months ago with a new Finance Intelligence module, Business Objects touted some limited compliance capabilities, such as an improved audit trail. But the BI giant is a relative late-comer to the compliance game: SAS has been shipping a dedicated SOX compliance offering for some time now, and earlier this year Hyperion made dedicated SOX-related announcements as well.

What’s more, some companies must certify their information systems for compliance with key provisions of SOX by the middle of next month. For these organizations, or for those unfortunate companies affected by next month’s deadline that haven’t yet started their compliance planning, Business Objects’ new SOX solution is may be, unavoidably, too little, too late.

Even so, says Guy Weismantel, director of product marketing for Business Objects, the new SOX compliance offering has a built-in audience—the thousands of customers that use his company’s BI software and won’t face their first SOX deadline until late next year. Business Objects is, Weismantel says, delivering this product partly in response to customer demand.

“In the months since we released Finance Intelligence, some customers have expressed their desire for us to be able to provide them with much more focused analytic insight around Sarbanes-Oxley and compliance,” he says. “This is mostly in the context of consultative situations we found ourselves in with current customers, but we also had requests from new prospects.”

Unlike Finance Intelligence, Weismantel says Business Objects’ Sarbanes-Oxley Analytic Solution is designed expressly for SOX compliance. “It takes a more horizontal approach to addressing various financial issues in a company, so in a sense we’ve kind of 'verticalized' specific compliance issues,” he comments.

This does not mean that the new offering addresses common SOX compliance scenarios in specific vertical markets, Weismantel concedes. “In the first iteration, we’ve tried to include as much overall functionality that will apply to the broadest set of customers we could. It’s quite obvious that tolerances [for customers in different verticals] will be much different.”

In fact, the new offering sounds very similar to the Finance Intelligence product on which it’s based. There’s auditing, for starters, and, as with Finance Intelligence, users can drill down from the data in financial reports down to its source, which—among other things—helps detect potential variances. Weismantel acknowledges these similarities and others, but counters that—unlike Finance Intelligence—the Sarbanes-Oxley Analytic Solution has been designed expressly for SOX compliance. “Here we’re addressing more the materiality of financial reporting, the timeliness of results, in addition to the financial transparency,” he says.

Business Objects also plans a different marketing strategy for its Sarbanes-Oxley Analytic Solution. For example, the BI giant clearly positioned Finance Intelligence as the final deliverable in its overall analytic suite, and, in that capacity, stressed its intended pairing with the Enterprise 6.5 platform. The Sarbanes-Oxley Analytic Solution will be targeted at existing Business Objects customers as well, Weismantel stresses, but the company plans to push it in non-Business Objects environments, too. “They don’t have to have an investment in Business Objects to take advantage of this. It’s self-standing, and it can be sold to new customers. They just install the product and the infrastructure,” Weismantel says.

As for “infrastructure,” Weismantel says customers need only the Sarbanes-Oxley Analytic Solution and a dashboard environment. “There are a few analytics pieces that run in the background that the end user never sees, but they’re just part of the implementation process,” he says.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.