In data we trust

Business intelligence giant, Business Objects, has heralded its intent to become a major player in the enterprise information management market to complement and enhance its US$1 billion BI market.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  July 2, 2006

|~|John-Schwarz_200.gif|~|John Schwarz, CEO of Business Objects.
|~|Business Objects (BO) is expanding into the enterprise information management (EIM) market in a bid to solve one of the biggest problems in business intelligence today: data quality.

Trusted data has remained an elusive goal throughout BI’s short history despite vendors’ claims of delivering a total view of the business. As BI moves beyond its largely departmental role to become a strategic enterprise tool, poor quality data could wreak havoc with the quality of decision being made.

Gartner estimates that more than 25% of critical data within large businesses is inaccurate. Also, of the 750 IT professionals and business executives surveyed by the Data Warehousing Institute late last year, 53% experienced problems because of poor-quality data.

"Reports and dashboards are only as good as the data that populates them," said Philip Russom, senior manager of research at The Data Warehousing Institute. "Complete, clean, and auditable data for reporting and analysis requires software tools for data integration, data quality, and data lineage - not to mention reporting and analysis tools - all tied together through a common metadata layer.”

The choice is to buy these tools from multiple vendors and work through a time-consuming system integration project, or get them all from a single vendor such as BO, “pre-integrated according to a sound EIM strategy".

At its Insight Europe user conference in Cannes earlier this year, BO rolled out a series of products that illustrated the grand plan behind its acquisitions of the past nine months or so – EIM.

At the end of last year it bought enterprise information integration (EII) vendor Medience. Then it took over its long-time partner, First Logic, a leader in the data quality field. Now it has wrapped these two technologies up with its Data Integrator ETL (extract, transform and load) solution and the new Metadata Manager XI tool to create a comprehensive EIM offering.

This is to be marketed to BO’s customer base as well that of Data Integrator, which has made big inroads in the standalone, general purpose data integration platform market. As such, its EIM could pose a serious alternative to IBM’s offerings as well as strengthen BO’s BI market leadership, now coming under increasing threat from Oracle and Microsoft in particular.

“The difference between us and companies such as Microsoft, SAP and Oracle is that we are absolutely focused on BI. This is our bread and butter; this is what we do; we are the best at it; we have the largest market share; and are recognised as a leader. We intend to stay with our knitting,” said John Schwarz, CEO of BO.

“All the other players have a small bit of BI in their portfolio but it does not represent a major part of their business. They are not focused on it, and they are not doing a very good job at it as customers will tell you,” he added.

Acknowledging that data might not have deserved the trust users have put in it, Schwarz said BO’s EIM goal is to offer customers a strategy to ensure their information is accurate and current - to give users a foundation of trustworthy data for their BI and performance management initiatives.

"The first step in building a high performance organisation is to make sure you can trust your data," he said. "A complete EIM approach will ensure that every decision maker - from the boardroom to the shop floor - is using correct and consistent data.

“Our EIM will help improve customers’ performance, enable standardisation on a single BI implementation, and ensure relevant and timely information is delivered to business users. Our integrated EIM solution sets BO apart from other business intelligence providers, and we expect it to play an important role in our future growth plans," he said.

It is where BO is heading that is currently intriguing analysts. Having just become a US$1 billion company, Schwartz said BO’s goal is to double revenues by the end of 2008 with between 10% and 15% of it coming from EIM and related products. The target does not seem unreasonable in light of reports that Data Integrator posted revenue growth topping 120% last year. If it hits that US$200 million to US$300 million target by then it will be a serious player alongside Informatica and IBM in the EIM space.

On the EII side, BO’s roll-out comprised a new product called BusinessObjects Data Federator XI, which provides a virtual, real-time view of disparate data sources. This, with BusinessObjects Data Integrator XI, which moves data physically from disparate sources and unites them in data warehouses and data marts, uniquely provides both physical and virtual data integration options.

Also new was BusinessObjects Metadata Manager XI. This collects and unifies BI, ETL, relational databases, and third-party metadata to give administrators complete visibility into all metadata.

Just one month after acquiring First Logic, BO announced its critical role in its EIM strategy. Data quality solutions from First Logic will also be offered as a standalone component. All the solutions will be open and capable of operating independently. They will also offer service orientated architecture (SOA) models. First Logic and Data Integrator are already service enabled. These and other solutions will be available for any application.

Although BO could be seen as a one-stop EIM shop, Schwarz said he fully realised no one company could meet all needs. Despite now owning and developing its own technology, its EIM portfolio would remain open to partners with the same or complementary solutions.

“The adoption of an EIM platform simply says we are completing our own portfolio, but that portfolio remains open; the APRs remain open. We are in fact deploying SOA across the board so we will be open not just to partners but also to customers integrating,” he said.

“We are very much moving into an industry specific way to solve these generic problems in a sense that there are different data types and data architectures and different sources of data both inside a customer’s organisation and in the public domain and understanding these data in the context of an industry is becoming a more important way to go to market.

“Our strategy is to have a common platform based on standards, fully open and then, as we go industry by industry, sector by sector, geography by geography, we will complement what we have with partner content and services partners to bring a more tailored solution to our customers,” said Schwarz.||**||

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