Single Solution is Top Reporting-Tool Requirement

Organizations demand all-in-one reporting tools that address their operational, analytic, and financial reporting requirements

Ask CIOs what BI technology they can least live without, and chances are they’ll name reporting. Be it of the operational, analytic, or financial variety, reporting is the most pervasive of BI technologies.

Not surprisingly, says consultancy Forrester Research, demand for reporting at all levels of the enterprise has spawned a profusion of competing reporting tools. One consequence, suggests Forrester analyst Keith Gile, is a relatively mature reporting tools marketplace. “Companies have a wide variety of technology options, from a plethora of BI vendors to platform and application vendors,” he writes.

So what are organizations looking for in a reporting tool? Increasingly, Gile says, a one-stop shop for all of their reporting needs.

“Companies want a single BI reporting and analysis solution. Every company and government organization wants a single, standard reporting and analysis solution for the entire organization,” he writes. “They need to drive down IT support costs and simultaneously increase the likelihood of a single version of critical data.”

Not coincidentally, the vendors who are best positioned to give enterprises a one-stop shop for enterprise reporting are those that have made the most aggressive reporting-related moves over the last 18 months.

In July of 2003, for example, Business Objects SA purchased the former Crystal Decisions Inc., developer of the ubiquitous Crystal Reports. Similarly, Hyperion Solutions Corp. rescued former reporting powerhouse Brio Software Corp. later that same month. Cognos Inc. developed its much-anticipated ReportNet operational reporting platform in September of 2003.

As a result, Gile says, all three vendors, along with (to a lesser extent) Actuate Corp., stand to benefit the most from this trend. “The top solution for a consolidated reporting platform is Business Objects via the Crystal Decisions acquisition, with Cognos in second with the release of ReportNet,” he writes. “Hyperion’s acquisition of Brio and Actuate’s acquisition of Nimble also impacted their respective placement on the consolidated platform reporting Wave.”

At the same time, the trend toward one-stop reporting could leave some vendors out in the cold, Gile speculates. “Niches are not well suited for this game,” he points out. “[N]o criterion will make up for a host of limitations, including broad access to data or application scalability.”

This is by no means a fait accompli, however. After all, one-stop reporting platforms are typically less mature than their standalone counterparts. “Since this is a mature market, core functionality related to OLAP, query, presentation formatting, and usability is solid for the best-of-breed BI vendors evaluated, but less so for the database and application platform vendors—which tend to be strong with internationalization and application scalability,” he says.

Even so, Forrester believes organizations need to start thinking about reducing the number of reporting tools in use throughout the business.

“The lack of an integrated reporting and analysis solution should not deter companies from beginning the process of standardizing, since the first step is to audit exactly what is in place today, who is using it, and for what purpose,” writes Gile, who suggests that organizations “start by adopting a standard solution for analytic, enterprise, and business reporting to help facilitate the inevitable consolidation process.”

Last year was a relatively quiet year in the BI space, acquisition-wise, but Gile and Forrester believe we could see more reporting-related acquisitions in 2005. Among other potential scenarios, Gile suggests that Actuate could be acquired by BEA Systems, ProClarity by long-time partner Microsoft, and MicroStrategy by data warehousing powerhouse Teradata.

About the Author

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