RealTime IT News

Business Objects's Plan Becomes 'Crystal' Clear

After six months of careful consideration, Business Objects unveiled a plan to integrate its $820 million purchase of fellow business intelligence (BI) software outfit Crystal Decisions into its portfolio.

The product roadmap, to be formally unveiled by company executives in a public event at the company's San Jose, Calif.-based headquarters Thursday, demonstrates how the BI giant plans to blend the popular reporting tools of Crystal with its performance management and query and analysis applications.

Performance management products help companies assess how their employees and products are working and help them improve upon those operations through scorecards, dashboards and alerting features. Query and analysis help workers become more intuitive, working to improve performance management on the fly. Reporting software yields the results in graphical and text format,which are rendered electronically or printed out.

Lance Walter, director of product marketing at Business Objects, said the roadmap consists of a phased rollout, in which his company plans to release an "integration pack" in second quarter 2004. It will provide portal integration and Web service APIs .

This is essentially an add-in for 17 million customers who have already deployed either Business Objects or Crystal software, or both. With it, customers will be able to integrate the disparate products so they may interoperate.

"For example, a lot of companies are using Crystal reporting in human resources, while a lot of companies are using Business Objects in sales," Walter told internetnews.com. "We've created portal-level integration with a common front-end and user interface."

By late 2004, Walter said Business Objects will offer platform integration in the form of Business Objects 11, which will consist of not only its own freshest software to date, but Crystal's enhanced applications as well. Upgrades will remain optional.

"We will move a lot of the Business Objects products onto a new, enhanced product, largely based on the Crystal platform," Walter said."

By late 2005, traces of Crystal as a standalone software company will have disappeared, as the reporting technologies will be completely integrated and work seamlessly with Business Objects. "This is the endpoint of product integration," Walter said.

Current Analysis analyst Mike Schiff said he expects Business Objects to pull off the integration without a hitch, due in large part to its track record for integrating acquisitions, such as data integration outfit Acta in July 2002, as well as Crystal's exceptional branding and recognition.

"Crystal is a gem," Schiff told internetnews.com. "This is a marriage of winners despite the FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] created by the competition."

Walter stressed his company will not make customers already paying licensing maintenance fees to pay for upgrades in platform versions 11 and 12.

While the roadmap seems solid, Walter admitted to a bit of trickiness, as he said both Business Objects and Crystal will continue to upgrade their software suites throughout the whole process, mindful of the ultimate seamless integration goal in 2005. Walter said is company would detail exactly what those upgrades will entail later this year.

With the marriage, comes the honeymoon in the form of a global multimillion-dollar launch. Walter said Business Objects has kicked off an advertising campaign and a global road show that will feature live events in 80 cities in 29 countries to drum up support and educate the IT world.

Business Objects touched off the acquisition frenzy in the BI space this past July when it bid to buy Crystal in the first of three bids in the same month for companies looking to add reporting software.

Hyperion followed up a week later by moving to acquire Brio Software for $142 million. Actuate followed suit by fixing on Nimble Technologies the following week.

France-based Business Objects had been known and respected for its performance management and query analysis capabilities. But like most of the large companies in the blossoming space, it had lacked quality reporting capabilities. Not anymore.