Business Objects Snaps Up Acta

Business Objects has entered into an agreement to acquire Acta Technology.

Business Objects, a specialist in business intelligence, is paying approximately $65 million in cash for Acta, a data platform provider. The acquisition is expected to close during Q3, and follows Business Objects' acquisition of Blue Edge.

What exactly does Business Objects hope to achieve? The company's trying to assemble the components of what it calls an enterprise analytic platform (EAP), essentially a combination of business intelligence (BI) and extraction, transformation and load (ETL), Acta's specialty.

According to analyst Mike Schiff of Current Analysis, Acta's "claim to fame" is "making it easy to connect to SAP R/3. They came out with data marts as well." Schiff, while bullish on Acta's proposition, says that, "They didn't exploit their leadership position. Their marketing wasn't strong."

Analyst Robert Moran of Aberdeen echoes that message. "Acta didn't have an immense presence in the marketplace, although it did have a good reputation." Also, Business Objects CEO Bernard Liautaud said, "ACTA hasn't [achieved] broad market penetration," on a conference call. While recognizing that Acta might not have had generated a lot of buzz, Moran has praise for the company's ETL expertise. "Acta's exceptionally good at pulling stuff from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems," Moran says.

This was the basic synergy seen by Business Objects. "There's no overlap between our product set and their product set," said Liautaud. He conceded that while "We're not the first company to have BI+ ETL," Business Objects is trying to beat out competitors (like Cognos and Informatica) by having strong functionality in both categories. Mark Tice, group vice president at Business Objects, elaborates, claiming that Cognos is primarily a BI and Informatica primarily an ETL specialist, but that neither has the combination that Business Objects now believes it does.

So what's the overall play for Business Objects? Current Analysis' Schiff says, "I don't think Business Objects will get into the ETL business per se."

Moran, too, says "An ETL environment could be the point of penetration into an account, pulling through other applications." Or, he adds, ETL could be the application that tilts a prospect in favor of Business Objects. "If you're doing analytics seriously, you need all those components." As far as Acta, Moran says, "They're moving to a strong sales channel with Business Objects, which has a good development house as well."

What's the business intelligence opportunity? It's at least as broad as ERP, Schiff concludes. "Think about all the ERP vendors that produce purchase orders, payroll, and general ledger. You've got to analyze what's going on, and analysis is business intelligence." Ultimately, this is where Business Objects hopes to become a part of the enterprise technology stack, says Darren Cunningham, the company's senior product marketing manager. "Customers want to get a consolidated enterprise view rolled up in management dashboard, but there are many steps to get to that vision. This is one approach."

Acta's operations will be relocated to the Business Objects headquarters in San Jose, CA. Business Objects has plans underway to integrate Acta's product set into Business Objects' BI products, and expects the first products based on Acta's technology to debut during Q3. It isn't clear yet how many of Acta's 125 employees will be absorbed into Business Objects' employee base of 2400 -- Tice says those numbers are "still being worked on."

Demir Barlas also writes for Line56.com

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