Business Objects vows to bring democracy to data


2 Mar 2005

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Business intelligence (BI) vendor Business Objects has promised to “democratise” BI with its latest offering, BusinessObjects XI, which it launched to customers and partners in Dublin last week.

The fast-growing French-based software firm, which opened a sales and support and shared service centre in Dublin last year, plans to broaden the appeal of BI software. “BI used be a tool for the specialist, the PhD and so on. Today it’s seen as a mission-critical application that everyone in the company needs to do their job,” noted chief marketing officer René Bonvanie.

The culmination of a year’s product development work, XI (standing for extreme insight) aims to combine the BI strengths of Business Objects with the reporting capabilities of Crystal Decisions, a software firm acquired by Business Objects for US$1.2bn a year ago. In XI, Crystal reports are embedded into the ‘dashboard’, giving users a single view of Crystal reports and the BI data from the Business Objects side. Bonvanie pointed out that because Crystal is the de facto reporting software worldwide with of the order of one billion Crystal reports in circulation, it was seen as important to maintain the same look and feel that users are familiar with.

Recognising the prevalence of Microsoft Office within the business community, XI also brings BI directly to Microsoft Office users by embedding BI directly in Office applications and allowing Office documents to be managed in the XI platform. This, for example, allows a user to read a Business Objects XI report from within a PowerPoint document.

Another new feature is BI Encyclopedia, a useful tool that gives users the definition of business terms as well as how to find other reports with related information. A separate tool also allows users to engage in collaborative analysis and decision making within dashboards, scorecards and reports. As well as the application itself, much was made of the integrity of the XI platform itself. Business Objects claimed that XI is the only BI platform that is Microsoft Windows Server Datacenter certified for reliability. This makes it particularly suitable for enterprise deployments, said Bonvanie who felt that “the future of BI is in large-scale deployments”.

BI is one of the fastest growing and most successful sectors in enterprise software. In 2003, the worldwide BI tools market was worth Us$3.9bn, according to market analyst IDC, which also predicts a compound annual growth rate of nearly 5pc over the next five years. With software revenues of US$925m in 2004 and revenues of US$266.7m in Q4 2004, up 45pc on Q4 2003, Business Objects is rated by IDC as the biggest player with a 17.8pc market share. Global customers include AstraZeneca, AA Road Services, British Airways and McDonald’s. In Ireland the company has a number of medium-sized companies on its books as well as several public sector agencies, such as the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

By Brian Skelly