Business Objects, Cognos strengthen offerings

As demand for standardized business information (BI) tools grows, vendors are rushing to build or buy technology to strengthen their offerings.

Business Objects SA last week set the wheels in motion to acquire Crystal Decisions Inc. for US$820 million in cash and stock, giving the company far greater reporting functionality.

Meanwhile, BI rival Cognos is developing additional reporting functionality for its suite. Ottawa-based Cognos has a product called ReportNet in beta with key customers and expects to launch it in the fall. It includes production reporting and is expected to integrate with the entire Cognos Enterprise BI Suite, including scorecards, dashboards, OLAP and alerts, according to a Cognos spokesperson.

In contrast, Business Objects’ planned acquisition of Crystal Decisions will add to its stable one of the most widely used enterprise reporting technologies. A run-time version of Crystal Reports is embedded in thousands of enterprise applications.

“There are reports that you can author with Crystal Decisions that you can’t author in Business Objects,” said Dave Kellogg, senior group vice-president of worldwide marketing at Business Objects in San Jose.

Customers are asking for more functionality in BI toolsets, according to Henry Morris, group vice president for applications and information access at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

Business Objects said the acquisition will enable it to deliver a single administration structure, a single structure for security, and a single report repository, in addition to query generators and semantic layers.

However, SEC rules restrict the company from offering details until the deal is complete, said Bill Hostmann, a senior analyst at Gartner in San Francisco.

One systems integrator thinks the two product lines will integrate smoothly.

“They are complementary to each, and the technologies are easily accessible,” said Jose Gonzalez, president of Accelerated Consulting Group in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. “Crystal Decisions technology going forward is .Net based, and that makes for easy integration from an XML standpoint. Business Objects has also made its move to support XML.”

The integration effort is likely to take 12 to 18 months, once the acquisition happens and product plans for 2005 are set, Hostmann said.