Business Objects Unveils SMB-Friendly Reporting Tool
Business Objects has the makings of a formidable mid-market stack.
Is there any doubt business intelligence (BI) vendors see the mid-market as—to sample a phrase once popularized by Beck Hanson—where it’s at, revenue-wise? (http://www.tdwi.org/News/display.aspx?ID=8314)
Business Objects SA expanded its own mid-market push last week, delivering Crystal Decisions Standard Edition, the first of several planned mid-market overtures. The upshot, industry watchers say, is that Business Objects’ current and planned on-premises SMB entries will complement its off-premises software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings, giving the BI giant a formidable mid-market stack.
Business Objects expects to deliver two additional versions of its Crystal Decisions product line later this year: Crystal Decisions Professional Edition (which includes data integration technology) and Crystal Decisions Premium Edition (which bundles performance management features, along with the data integration capabilities of Crystal Decisions Professional Edition).
The BI giant signaled its intent to focus on the mid-market last April, when it announced a software-as-a-service (SaaS) version of its ubiquitous Crystal Reports software. (http://www.tdwi.org/news/display.aspx?id=7911)
Fast forward nearly a year. Business Objects now fields a dedicated SaaS entry (crystalreports.com) and also owns its own SaaS infrastructure (thanks to last year’s acquisition of the former Nsite Software Inc.). In addition, it got a head-start on BI competitors Informatica Corp. and Cognos Inc., among others, which subsequently articulated SaaS strategies of their own.
In this regard, Crystal Reports Standard Edition, as well as its two (still-incubating) sister offerings, comprise the on-premises Yin to Business Objects’ off-premises Yang: like their SaaS brethren, these SMB-friendly tools provide reporting, ad hoc query and analysis, dashboarding, and visualization capabilities—albeit in a slightly less turnkey fashion.
At least some industry watchers say they like what they see. "Business Objects’ announcement was a necessity for the vendor to … get a competitive jump on Microsoft, which is aggressively targeting that market through the forthcoming Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 and other new products," notes James Kobielus, a principal analyst for data management with consultancy Current Analysis.
Nor, for that matter, does Business Objects plan to stop with mid-market reporting, Kobielus observes: "Business Objects has developed a … roadmap for expanding its penetration into the mid-market for BI, [corporate performance management] and [data integration] solutions."
At the same time, however, Kobielus says Business Objects needs to say more about its plans to evolve Crystal Decisions either in tandem with, or separately from, its flagship XI products. "[Business Objects] has not committed to synchronizing enhancements to its mid-market suite to coincide with enhancements to the corresponding components of its XI flagship product family," he indicates. "[Nor has] Business Objects … committed to providing its full DI functionality—including the enterprise information integration [EII] features of its Data Federator XI product—in the forthcoming Professional and Premium Editions."
Kobielus also touts Business Objects’ attendant SMB channel push: mid-market customers generally need more IT hand-holding than their larger enterprise brethren, so a clear channel strategy is a must for the SMB set. "Business Objects is providing its channel partners with a robust, extensible, SOA-enabled platform for developing mid-market CPM solutions," he indicates. "The new mid-market solutions [which tap the Business Objects XI codebase] incorporate an open architecture that integrates with diverse third-party applications, platforms, and databases." The idea, Kobielus says, is that partners and integrators can develop customized mid-market solutions—in this case, by using canned project-accelerator templates and data connectors, which are provided by Business Objects.
For these and other reasons, he says the new Crystal Decisions line is a win-win for the BI giant: "Business Objects has the most comprehensive, well-thought-out SMB approach of any vendor in the BI arena, and it will very likely enjoy considerable revenue growth from that burgeoning customer segment."
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.