Intelligent channel

Business intelligence software has emerged as a hot area of the region's applications market.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  June 3, 2008

Business intelligence software has emerged as a hot area of the applications market and one where vendors need an assured network of partners. But the channel strategies that vendors are now employing to address the Middle East market vary dramatically.

Business intelligence (BI) is a smart move. Simply put, BI software analyses the hard facts of your business.

It can tell you, among reams of others statistics and analytics, how your employees are devoting their time, what volume of sales they are bringing in, where product orders are coming from and how much stock is needed in the future.

You will find that partners are competing against each other. It’s not healthy because you want the partner to invest and they won’t if they feel they are going to have to fight with one another.

BI software takes a great deal of the pain out of making those impossible corporate calculations. But marvel as we may at the bountiful possibilities the BI concept presents, no amount of state-of-the-art software could have predicted the seismic shift in the BI landscape during the past year.

Large software vendors, not previously engaged in BI but attracted by the impressive prospects and high growth rates globally, launched an incursion into the market with high-level purchases of BI providers.

Oracle purchased Hyperion Solutions, Cognos bought Applix prior to its takeover by IBM, while SAP acquired Pilot Software, OutlookSoft and Business Objects, which itself snapped up Cartesis.

This wave of change was brought about as the large enterprise software developers realised that growth in ERP was likely to wane and BI would be a great opportunity to offset that fear.

The tumultuous recent history of BI has, it seems, not done too much to dent its march in the Middle East. Gartner revealed earlier this year that whilst globally-speaking the BI flames have been somewhat doused, they still resemble something of a wildfire in the rapidly-expanding Middle East market.

Worldwide growth rates in BI will be less than single digits by 2011, with a predicted five-year compound annual growth rate of 8.6%.

North America, Western Europe and Japan represent the most significant stomping grounds for BI solutions peddlers, but in line with the general consensus of the region's BI channel, "greenfield" opportunities thanks to fast economic and structural developments will drive double-digit growth in the Middle East.

"Consolidation activities by SAP, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft should help accelerate the value derived from BI," commented Gartner's senior research analyst Dan Sommer.

"Large vendors will drive increased usage, while new BI vendors will emerge introducing innovative technology and products to demonstrate differentiation and fill the gaps in mega-vendors' product lines," he added.

Now that the post-consolidation dust has settled, this positive outlook from Gartner is echoed in the Middle East by the systems integrators that serve it.

Guy Ricketts, managing director at Cognos-aligned systems integrator Performance Systems, is certain of the benefits that will be realised from its vendor partner's merger with IBM.

"One of Cognos' strengths even before the merger with IBM was its application and data source independence. Now there's the combination of Cognos and IBM.

On its own, prior to the merger, IBM was very strong at data integration and data warehousing. It can only be positive with IBM's large client base in the region," he added.

Egypt-based Globisoft is just as effusive about the perks of the big shift that has taken place. "It has affected the market in a positive way because IBM, for example, is a very big name and has a large portfolio," asserted Ayman El-Sayed, managing director at Globisoft.

"IBM now has all of the applications that are needed and will acquire a lot more in the future, so it can stand in front of the other big vendors that also have full portfolios."

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