SAP to buy OutlookSoft to get closer to CFOs

The acquisition is part of an ongoing effort at SAP to offer an integrated software suite tailored to the needs of CFOs

Business applications vendor SAP is making another acquisition aimed at filling out its product portfolio to better meet the needs of CFOs. The company announced late Tuesday plans to buy U.S. corporate performance management software company OutlookSoft for an undisclosed sum.

SAP hopes to complete the purchase of privately held OutlookSoft within the next 30 days, according to Sanjay Poonen, senior vice president and general manager of analytics at SAP.

Over the last 18 to 24 months, SAP has made a number of moves designed to put together a complete suite of software for CFOs, Poonen said, starting with the shipping of its mySAP ERP 2005 enterprise resource planning software, which includes financial applications. A year ago, SAP bought compliance software vendor Virsa Systems and established a governance, risk, and compliance management business unit. Then in February, SAP acquired analytics software company Pilot Software. The idea is to combine all these products into an integrated suite for CFOs, Poonen said.

SAP's not alone in seeing CFOs as a key market for its software, one where there's been a decided lack of integration between different products. This has meant customers have had to engage in a lot of work trying to tie the disparate offerings together themselves.

Earlier this year, Oracle acquired business intelligence and performance management software vendor Hyperion for $3.3 billion, while BI vendor Business Objects scooped up Cartesis for around $300 million. Cartesis was Business Objects' second purchase of a performance management company in recent years, following the purchase of SRC Software in 2005

In contrast to its main applications rival Oracle, SAP has steered clear of large-scale, multibillion dollar acquisitions, opting instead to buy up smaller companies with software that fills white space in its current product lineup.

SAP and OutlookSoft did not have a prior formal relationship, but 150 of OutlookSoft's 700-strong customer base also use SAP's software, according to Phil Wilmington, president and CEO of OutlookSoft. His company has been growing at a good clip since its founding in 1999, around 25 percent annually, and wasn't looking to be acquired, he said. Instead, OutlookSoft had been considering going public. However, when SAP approached the vendor several months ago, OutlookSoft saw a way to gain more visibility in the market for its software, Wilmington added.

Traditionally, OutlookSoft's day-to-day competitors have been Hyperion, which is now owned by Oracle, and Cognos. Rumors continue to swirl that IBM will acquire Cognos.

OutlookSoft has had a strong relationship with Microsoft with many of its users running the corporate performance management software alongside Microsoft's SQL Server database and its Analysis Services. Going forward, SAP's NetWeaver middleware will become OutlookSoft's "platform of choice," Wilmington said.

At the same time, Poonen saw a role for OutlookSoft in SAP's relationship with Microsoft. The two companies have jointly developed the Duet software that integrates Microsoft's desktop Office suite with SAP's back-end mySAP enterprise applications.

Poonen suggested that OutlookSoft could become one of the Duet scenarios. "Scenarios" is the term Microsoft and SAP use to describe additional integration capabilities focused on particular business areas such as performance management. Like other users, CFOs are keen to be able to access more of the applications they use through the Microsoft Office suite they're familiar with like the vendor's Excel spreadsheet, Poonen said.

Headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, OutlookSoft employs around 250 people, all of whom SAP hopes to take on, Poonen said. Back in 1999, OutlookSoft was originally founded in two locations -- the U.S. and Milan -- so the company had a global focus from day one, Wilmington said. Currently, 40 percent of OutlookSoft customers are based outside of the U.S., he added.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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