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High IQ Products For The Low End

Business Objects today augmented its business intelligence software to make it more palatable and affordable for the burgeoning small- and medium-sized business (SMB) market.

It is also targeting larger enterprises with a new set of data collecting and data cleansing tools, called Data Federator and Metadata Manager, that are intended to help vet and clean up data.

Darren Cunningham, senior director of product marketing at Business Objects, said the company developed the enhancements and new products by listening to customer requirements and complaints about existing solutions.

"We built this product with our ears," he told internetnews.com, noting that the company was building momentum in order to capitalize on growing demand for its products.

The business intelligence (BI) arena is indeed one of the hottest sectors in technology, according to Merrill Lynch analyst Ed Maguire.

"BI and data warehousing continue to rank as top IT spending priorities for 2006," he wrote in a research note last month.

Want more evidence of the power of BI?

Boston-based market research firm AMR Research said that the business intelligence market will grow by 10 percent this year, topping $6 billion.

AMR Research analyst John Hagerty told internetnews.com that most of the growth in this area is among SMBs.

"The mid-market is the largest available sector to go after," he said.

To wit, Business Objects' focus on the SMB market began in earnest last month, when it rolled out an on-demand version of Crystal Reports.

One of the main enhancements aimed at SMBs is a new feature allowing users to pull the results of database queries right into Microsoft Office products, such as Excel and PowerPoint.

Providing interoperability with Microsoft products is a growing trend in the enterprise software arena, as illustrated by yesterday's launch of Duet.

Business Objects is also rolling out new versions of Crystal Vision for the desktop and Crystal Vision Server, both tailored for the the SMB market.

Users of the enhanced Crystal solutions will be to distribute reports containing fully interactive charts.

This could allow colleagues to share the same report between computers, and manipulate charts to see how those changes are reflected in metrics across the board.

Hagerty noted that Business Objects inherited a strong base of SMB users with its acquisition of Crystal Decisions.

Now, said Hagerty, the company is focused on simplifying its BI products.

"Simplicity is the next big hurdle," he said. "Simplicity will drive adoption. If you can make business intelligence brain-dead simple to use, you can get more people to use it," he said.

Hagerty also noted that it is not unusual for broader adoption to occur among SMBs once new products become standard among enterprise-level companies.

"Large firms plow the earth and mid-market firms reap the benefits," he said.

In parallel, Business Objects has launched heavier-duty BI and data warehousing products for its larger enterprise customer base.

Data Federator provides customers with a virtual, real-time view of their disparate data sources.

Data Federator works in conjunction with Business Objects' Data Integrator XI, an extract, transform and load (ETL) solution that physically moves data from disparate sources and unites them in data warehouses and data marts.

Another new product, Metadata Manager, collects and unifies business intelligence, ETL, relational database, and third-party metadata.

The solution gives administrators visibility into all metadata so they can view, analyze and explore metadata relationships and business rules.

"It allows the IT organization to bring together all metadata from BI and data warehousing into a single data repository," said Cunningham. "Users can trace where the data comes from and how it was calculated."

According to Merrill Lynch analyst Maguire, Business Objects' strategy for selling new products to existing enterprise customers should prove effective.

"User feedback around the product [indicates] that migration utilities work well and the product delivers and scales well," he wrote.