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SAP leads in enterprise CPM, study says

The corporate performance management market varies greatly thanks to rapidly changing dynamics, but a recent study breaks down the leading vendors.

A recent Bloor Research study finds that software carrying the corporate performance management (CPM) moniker can vary greatly, because the market is rapidly changing.

Historically, CPM tools have focused on finance, according to study author Gerry Brown, senior analyst with Towcester, U.K.-based Bloor Research International Ltd. But that's changing as a result of regulatory compliance, competitive pressures and organizational demands for democratization of information. Many organizations want to deploy CPM broadly to many employees, but traditional finance CPM tools don't have the functionality required for organization-wide deployments, Brown said in an interview. Bloor's report divides CPM systems into three new subcategories: enterprise CPM, finance CPM, and visualization and information delivery tools, which provide a presentation layer for CPM systems. According to Brown, though, organizations should consider more than just CPM when choosing technology.

The current convergence of CPM and business intelligence (BI) platforms is a logical evolution -- and should play a part in buying decisions, Brown said. Both require a foundation of integrated, accurate data and are "variations on a theme." CPM will be much more pervasive than BI, Brown believes, and he strongly recommends that buyers consider vendors that provide both capabilities.

"Having BI and CPM in one platform gives you the breadth and depth of functionality in one place," Brown said. "It also enables you to negotiate better deals with suppliers and minimize the degree of systems integration required, which reduces the cost of ownership."

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A combined system is also easier for users, he said, because it provides a single place to "pull" information -- as in BI query tools -- and "push" information out to people -- as in CPM dashboards or scorecards. Brown recommends that CPM evaluators begin by looking at the eight vendors that made both Bloor's recent BI report and the CPM report: Actuate Corp., Business Objects S.A., Cognos Inc., Hyperion Solutions Corp., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., SAP AG and SAS Institute.

In the new CPM report, Bloor rates 21 vendors for geographic coverage, maturity, stability and risk, ease of implementation, fitness for purpose, performance, architecture, support and coverage, and value for money. The top-rated overall vendors were Hyperion, SAP and Cognos. The report placed most emphasis on the three subcategories, however, naming one "gold" vendor and three "one to watch" contenders for enterprise CPM, finance CPM, and visualization and information delivery.

Enterprise, finance and visualization vendor rankings

Enterprise CPM vendors address broad deployment requirements, the report states, with a strong platform for data integration, the ability to link CPM with business processes for executing top-down strategies, and strong ties with management methodologies such as the balanced scorecard. SAP took the gold in this category, with Cognos, Oracle and SAS designated ones-to-watch. The report anticipated questions about Santa Clara, Calif.-based Hyperion Solutions Corp.'s failure to make this category and stated that the performance management giant "has stayed solidly within its comfort zone of finance and has shown little inclination to attack the wider Enterprise CPM marketplace."

Of the vendors focused on planning, budgeting, forecasting and advanced financial functions, Hyperion took the gold. Cartesis SA, Extensity (recently acquired by Infor Global Solutions) and OutlookSoft Corp. were the ones-to-watch. Hyperion has differentiated its platform through the acquisition of Razza for master data management, which enables synchronized metadata and enterprise data across multiple applications. This year, Hyperion also acquired Upstream for financial data management. According to the report, Hyperion wants to move toward assisting financial business process management.

The visualization and information delivery category included products that provide a presentation layer and user interface as part of a wider CPM system. Microsoft was awarded the gold, while ones-to-watch included Actuate, Applix Inc. and Sage Software Inc. Microsoft's ability to reduce price points and drive user adoption is unrivaled, and its acquisition of analytics vendor ProClarity and subsequent announcement of PerformancePoint 2007, due out in June 2007, has positioned it to step up to the finance CPM category next year. It will target finance first, the report said, by wrapping Excel with PerformancePoint 2007.

Buyer beware

CPM is an evolving market, and between product updates, acquisitions and user experiences, much could change in the next year, Brown noted. He recommends taking ample time to ask important questions about internal strategy while becoming familiar with vendors -- particularly those offering combined BI-CPM platforms. He suggested some starting questions: Who will be your advocates and evangelists who will sell this concept? How are you going to embed performance within your organization? How are you going to build a culture that accepts performance management?

This strategy development will take at least six to 12 months, meaning that by the time internal requirements are clear, tools and platforms will have also matured -- putting organizations in the optimal position to make the right choice for their own requirements.

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