• October 17, 2007
  • By Colin Beasty, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Business Objects' Polestar Guides Information Search

Business intelligence (BI) vendor -- and SAP acquisition target -- Business Objects made two noteworthy product announcements at its annual Insight user conference in Orlando, Fla., this week. On Monday, the company launched the latest version of its flagship reporting product, Crystal Reports 2008, followed on Tuesday with the unveiling of a new enterprise search tool: Polestar. Crystal Reports 2008 offers new tools and capabilities for interactive reporting and visualization via embedded Adobe Flash functionality. These new features are backed by a beefed-up report-design environment that the company says will offer developers greater flexibility and ease of use than past versions. For example, Flash reports created in Business Objects Xcelsius visual analytics tool and Adobe's Flex development environments can now be integrated directly into Crystal Reports, thus enabling users to connect Xcelsius with Crystal Reports data to perform predictive "what-if" simulations, according to the company. Crystal Reports 2008 is a "huge release," says James Thomas, vice president of marketing for BI content and tools for Business Objects, and says the new embedded Flash and Flex capabilities allows reports generated through Crystal Reports to be more easily integrated into everyday operational decision-making processes. "Today a report is often the end process. We're now providing an ability to do action-based reporting that lets developers more easily build applications that tie the reports to business processes to allow users to take direct action." And yesterday, Business Objects unveiled a new data search solution called Polestar, which the company says simplifies BI queries and extends decision support to an expanded set of business users. Polestar draws its design and functionality from Internet search engines to provide users with simplified access to corporate data via familiar keyword search tools. For example, users will be able to find relevant BI information scattered across Polestar-indexed databases, file systems, and other corporate data sources. Polestar works with Business Objects XI BI platform, and is part of a broader strategy to provide users with more self-service BI capabilities, says Juliette Sultan, vice president of Business Objects' information discovery and delivery business. "Polestar represents the latest milestone in our ongoing mission to radically enhance our customers' BI experience." Other parts of Business Objects' enterprise search strategy will include future offerings from current projects code-named "Constellation" and "Galaxy," Sultan says. Polestar is expected to be generally released in December. When it is, it will join an existing market of search offerings from vendors such as Cognos and Information Builders, says James Kobielus, a principal analyst for data management at Current Analysis, though he says Business Objects has offered search capabilities via embedded functionality in other products. "Polestar is a nice complement to the other search functionality they [Business Objects] offer. The next step will be to bring these capabilities together, which now includes SAP." Taken in context of SAP's $6.8 billion bid to purchase Business Objects, Kobielus says the product announcements are representative of the "bang-up job" Business Objects is doing with its product offerings. "SAP has acquired a strong, dynamic BI and information management vendor in Business Objects -- one of the market leaders," he says. "They both have some strong synergies," referring to both vendors' enterprise search capabilities, among other product attributes. Kobielus sees SAP keeping Business Objects running as a standalone business unit within SAP, with "several years of co-existence while they build-out the integration across both sets of product lines." Of particular interest, Kobielus says it will be interesting to see how Business Objects' data quality and enterprise information management capabilities will help shore up SAP's master data management (MDM) and customer data integration (CDI) offerings. "SAP doesn't have quite as strong an MDM offering as some of its competitors, and while Business Objects hasn't been as clear on its own MDM strategy as many would like, it has the tool sets in place to make a strong offering, which SAP could benefit from."

Related articles: Forrester Wave Ranks Cognos and Oracle Tops in Performance Management Forrester Research's ranking of BPM vendors provides a snapshot of a market in motion. SAP to Acquire Business Objects The friendly takeover folds new business intelligence capabilities into one of the leading enterprise software platforms; amidst differing opinions, rumors loom of a counteroffer from Oracle or IBM. Business Objects Moves to Master Its Data-Product Portfolio The BI vendor releases a new product- and region-focused data cleansing solution as it continues to expand its Enterprise Information Management line beyond customer data. Feature: The 2007 Market Awards: Business Intelligence As the market for business intelligence matures and users become more sophisticated, more companies are buying into BI.
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