Business Objects Gives SMBs an Edge
Business Objects, a provider of business intelligence (BI) software, has recently added a new application to its Edge Series for midmarket businesses called Edge Planning. With this functionality, the France-based BI vendor aims to help small and midsize businesses (SMBs) with their planning, budgeting, and forecasting in a system that's "easy, flexible, scalable, [and has] pre-packaged applications," explains Todd Rowe, vice president and general manager of Business Objects' worldwide midmarket business unit.
The planning and budgeting component, Rowe says, is directed toward the financial and accounting departments of SMBs, many of which have had to handle a significant amount of their data on Excel spreadsheets. The convenience and accessibility will in turn help CRM, he adds: "Planning and budgeting make sure sales, marketing, and customer support have adequate resources to do what they need to get done -- it directly helps with [a company's] CRM initiative." In addition, the Edge series is based on the same code set as Business Objects' enterprise edition, making for an easier transition down the road if the company wants to upgrade.
Rowe reports on an annual survey conducted by research firm Gartner, asking 1,000 SMB CIOs the following question: "What technology segments do you plan on purchasing in the coming years?" Five years ago, Rowe says, BI was ranked tenth. Three years ago, it was second. For the last two years, however, BI has held the top spot. Businesses are increasingly adopting ERP and CRM applications to run their business, making it possible to obtain large amounts of data -- a potentially overwhelming amount, Rowe says. "They need BI to get some insight into this data."
Historically, Rowe says, BI used to be the "privileged domain of [just] the very large enterprise." With a set of products specifically designed for SMBs, he believes that Business Objects has "democratized BI," which will essentially help SMBs to better identify customer purchase trends, build customer loyalty, and even contribute to the creation of marketing campaigns. With BI capabilities, Rowe believes companies will be able to improve sales initiatives going forward, rather than merely learning from knowledge gained in hindsight. To this point, BI has been primarily the domain of chief executive officers or chief information officers. Now, Rowe says, the technology needs to be in the hands of the sales and marketing departments, and the line-of-business users.
Business Objects divides its midmarket clients based on annual revenue as well as on the number of employees. Those divisions include the following ranges:
- 50 to 249 employees,
- 250 to 499 employees, and
- 500 to 1000 employees.
(Interestingly, these employee-base divisions do not jibe with those in use at German business software giant SAP, which in early October announced its intention to acquire Business Objects. SAP divides its midmarket applications according to the following categories: fewer than 100 employees, 100 to 500 employees, and 100 to 2,500 employees.)
Furthermore, compared to for the enterprise edition of Edge, the prices for the midmarket versions of the product are 50 percent to 70 percent lower, beginning at $20,000 per year for five concurrent users, which includes the license, first year's maintenance, and customer support. Moreover, Business Objects has created a pricing model that allow users to upgrade within the midmarket series as well as into the enterprise edition: Customers only have to pay the difference between each edition. "What we try to do is protect the customer investment," Rowe says.
The prepackaged solutions Business Objects offers with Planning and Budgeting include:
- Payroll Planning
- Strategic Planning
- Capital Planning
- Sales Planning
- Planning for IT
- Activity-Based Budgeting
- Incentive Compensation
- Productivity Management
Business Objects also announced today that it will be partner with SPSS to further supplement its capabilities in predictive analytics. "SPSS is literally the de facto
standard in terms of predictive analytics," Rowe says. However, SPSS's technology will not be available to the Edge Series just yet. "We're going to focus on SPSS with our Business Objects enterprise product...and integrate it with the enterprise platform code set," Rowe says. But Rowe firmly predicts that, as soon as the SPSS functionality is set on the enterprise side, and there's a smooth migration path from midmarket products into enterprise editions, "we will definitely [add] that in the midmarket product line."
Rowe also explains that there have been ongoing discussions about the new offering in conjunction with the company's midmarket counterparts at SAP. The two firms expect to "finalize a joint product roadmap at the end of this month or early next month," Rowe says, including what he calls a plan of integration. But for now, he says, there isn't a public plan on how this will be achieved. Nevertheless, he adds, "what we do see is a huge opportunity [for Business Objects]. Only 10 percent of SAPs SMBs have some form of BI. So SAP will be able to sell this Edge product to 90 percent of their customers." SAP currently sells three products to three different segments of the midmarket:
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