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Business Objects Teams Up With Oco

In the latest move among business intelligence (BI) vendors as they struggle for dominance, SAP company Business Objects has teamed up with Oco. Think of it as David and Goliath playing on the same team, since Business Objects is by far the larger of the two.

Both companies offer BI in software as a service (SaaS) mode and target the SMB market. Their teaming up is a continuation of the cut-throat competition that saw Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), SAP (NYSE: SAP) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) snap up Hyperion, Business Objects and Cognos, respectively, last year.

"Business intelligence is no longer a reporting tool; it's becoming a competitive differentiator for companies," Forrester analyst Boris Evelson told InternetNews.com. "Everything else is so commoditized that business today competes on making better decisions faster."

That makes BI tools hot, but it also brings new companies flocking into the field; Evelson is currently tracking 200 players in the BI space. That means players will do anything to get a leg up on the competition. The Business Objects move, for example, will let it exploit the various vertical niches for which Oco has developed best practices, and will let Oco tackle larger clients than it can on its own.

Business OnDemand is one of Business Objects' many products offered in software as a service mode. The two will jointly offer clients BI as a service.

Business Objects, which has a long history of partnering with other companies to hone its competitive edge, has the freedom to continue doing so under SAP's umbrella. "The strong partnership on all levels is a very big part of their strategy, and they have the autonomy to continue to partner in the directions they see fit," said SAP spokesperson Dorit Shackleton.

That continues the direction spelled out from the very beginning, when SAP announced in November that it would acquire Business Objects for about $6.8 billion. SAP wants its products to support or work with products from other vendors so it can achieve its goal of doubling its addressable market by 2010.

Preparing the smorgasbord

Oco has managed to survive in the cut-throat BI market by developing expertise in specific vertical markets. "We've built out best practices solutions through experts in our company and people from outside, and create templates in vertical industry niches," Oco president and CEO William Copacino told InternetNews.com.

Oco's templates provide recommended analytics and reports in the retail, industrial manufacturing and consumer packaged goods industries, in various functional areas. Its technology will let Business Objects deliver solutions to customers quickly and at low cost.

Oco's data discovery and mapping tool, Oco Connect, can map a database in anywhere from two to 21 days, depending on whether or not it has interacted with the source system before. Together with its permanent universal target database, this speeds up report creation considerably.

Instead of locating, cleansing, integrating and modeling clients' data, Oco asks its customers to accept its data model. "Once you do that, Oco will find all the data in your organization to fit that model, and almost magically out of the box comes BI," Forrester's Evelson said. This won't work in large enterprises, which want to customize their intelligence, but it fits "small businesses that want a relatively quick and inexpensive solution," he added.

Mani Gill, vice president of on-demand business at Business Objects, said the partnership with Oco will "let us deliver hosted multi-source data warehouses in multiple industries and functional areas." It will also enhance the Business Objects' Business OnDemand solution, where "we use our enterprise information management tools to pull data from customers, host it ourselves and provide business intelligence on top," he said.

Evelson's translation: Business Objects will use the partnership to continue its push into the SMB market. "Even though they have all sorts of offerings for SMB, that's another T they're going to cross and another i they're going to dot," he added.

On the other hand, Oco can resell Business Objects tools including Crystal Xcelsius, Web Intelligence, Crystal Reports and Data Integrator to customers as and when needed. It will partner with Business Objects in sales, marketing, services and product development.