SAP retires overlapping BI products

SAP retires overlapping BI products

Three months after closing its acquisition of Business Objects, SAP has made some tough decisions about which overlapping products from the merger it plans to phase out.

The ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendor gained a raft of BI (business intelligence) capabilities through its US$6.8 billion purchase of Business Objects, but the deal also created significant overlap, especially in performance management tools. Much of that overlap was caused by acquisitions made by both companies before the deal. Those included SAP's purchase of Pilot Software and OutlookSoft, and Business Objects' acquisitions of ALG, SRC and Cartesis.

Some of those decisions have now been made, said John Schwarz, CEO of the former Business Objects, who is now in charge of BI at SAP. Analysts said they expect further cuts to follow in other product areas.

"They were obviously difficult [decisions], in the sense that each product has customers, each has its merits, each has a team that's passionately committed to it, so the debates, as you might imagine, were fairly heated," Schwarz said in an interview at SAP headquarters on Wednesday.

SAP will support the products it retires for "at least three years," Schwarz said. That means customers will get security patches, bug fixes and limited support, but should expect little in the way of new features.

For financial planning, SAP has decided to keep developing the product from OutlookSoft, which later became SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (SAP-BPC). That means customers using Business Objects' SRC software will be encouraged to migrate to SAP-BPC.

For profitability and cost management, SAP will develop the ALG software, which Business Objects had renamed Activity Analysis. That's not surprising, since SAP has been reselling a third-party tool from Acorn Systems, which it calls SAP Business Profitability Management.

The picture for financial consolidation is a little more complicated. SAP has chosen Business Objects' Cartesis software as "the premium consolidation engine," Schwarz said. However, customers who want a unified planning and consolidation tool will be offered SAP-BPC (the former OutlookSoft product), which Schwarz said will retain its "Excel-like interface."

An SAP spokesman described Cartesis as "the Cadillac product" for doing complex, global consolidation work involving numerous regulatory requirements. SAP will release some enhancements this year for its own SEM Business Consolidation System, the spokesman said, but customers will be advised to migrate over time to the Cartesis software.

For strategy management, including dashboards and scorecards, SAP will retain the product it bought from Pilot Software, which it calls SAP Strategy Management. That implies new development will end soon on the former Business Objects' performance management product.

Although some customers will be dismayed to learn that the products they are using will be phased out, one analyst commended SAP for taking decisive action and said more is likely to follow.

"I'm very impressed they are making very hard choices and decisions," said Boris Evelson, principal analyst for BI at Forrester Research. "Unlike some competitors who are leaving all the products they acquire on the table and saying, 'We'll never sunset anything,' Business Objects and SAP are making those hard choices."

SAP will probably be making other difficult choices as well, Evelson said. It still has to deal with overlap between Crystal Reports, Web Intelligence, Dashboard Builder, Voyager and other products on the Business Objects side, and Visual Analyzer and BEx BI from SAP. Analysts expect mostly Business Objects products to take precedence.

Describing the decision process, Schwarz said: "Ultimately we looked at which has the largest installed base, which has the best customer experience, which is the fastest-moving in the marketplace, and which has the best architecture that you can integrate other pieces into, and those were the decisions that were taken."

SAP is trying to minimize the disruption for customers, Schwarz said. For example, it will import the data models from SRC to OutlookSoft, as well as "industry-specific solutions built around medical, banking, retail and so forth, so that will not be lost," he said.

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