Business Objects bets on convergence in IT tools

SAP unit rolls out products for BI, governance, risk, and compliance, and EPM

SAP's Business Objects unit sees business intelligence (BI), governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), and enterprise performance management (EPM) tools all converging, and Tuesday it rolled out some products that it hopes shows it is best poised to deliver all three.

"Setting up [business] strategy and cascading it, that's EPM, understanding risk, that's GRC, and analysis of what works, that is BI," said Jonathan Becher, senior vice president of marketing for Business Objects, at a company event in Boston.

A new EPM offering called SAP Spend Analytics collects and analyzes procurement-related data from various sources, enabling users to monitor compliance and look for ways to save money.

The company also announced new versions of Profitability and Cost Management, which examines costs on a granular level; and Financial Consolidation, for rolling up global financials.

In addition, SAP announced a new services program, in conjunction with partners, to help businesses prepare an ERM (enterprise risk management) strategy. The credit rating firm Standard & Poor's recently said it would begin weighing ERM in its ratings of non-financial companies.

In other news Tuesday:

-- A data-visualization tool aimed at business users, Xcelsius Present, is now available. The tool can take Excel spreadsheet data and turn it into interactive visuals. Pricing starts at $195.

-- Users of SAP's Business One application can now download a basic version of Crystal Reports at no charge; the integration allows users to pull data from Business One and make reports.

While Tuesday's news centered on a new marketing theme, core work remains for Business Objects and SAP, noted Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson. Earlier this year, Business Objects unified its tools under one platform. But the company has not yet achieved a deep level of integration between the products, such as the ability to migrate a report developed in Web Intelligence to Crystal Reports, Evelson said.

Some progress is being made, a company spokesman responded by e-mail.

"There are use cases we are looking at supporting -- some are working today: Dashboard Builder, for example, lets you lasso Crystal Reports content and drag and drop it into a dashboard, you can add Xcelsius components and even Web Intelligence docs," said Franz Aman, vice president of BI platform marketing. "Going forward we are looking at things like moving a Web Intelligence query into Voyager for slicing and dicing, work sets from Polestar into [Web Intelligence] for someone else other then the casual information user to then create scheduled reports for publishing, et cetera."

"We will however not be doing everything possible, but what makes sense from a user persona and use-case perspective," he added.

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