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How BI market consolidation affects SAP customers

SAP, Oracle and IBM all made business intelligence (BI) acquisitions recently. Forrester Research's Paul Hamerman discusses what it means for SAP customers.

In recent months, three large business intelligence (BI) vendors have been acquired. SAP bought Business Objects, Oracle acquired Hyperion and IBM made an offer for Cognos. Since many SAP customers also use software from these acquired companies, SearchSAP.com spoke with Paul Hamerman, a principal analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, to get his thoughts on the future of the BI market, which company got the best BI deal, and what it all means for SAP customers.

Is this the end of consolidation in the BI market?

Paul Hamerman: BI is a lot of different components -- there are about 50 different things in the BI stack. There aren't that many big [BI vendors] left, but there are a lot of small ones that provide some good technology in a variety of different areas. So, no, we haven't seen the end of this, not by a long shot.

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How have the acquisitions in the BI market differed from those in the ERP (enterprise resource planning) market?

Hamerman: A lot of what's happening [in the BI market], particularly with IBM-Cognos, is complementary acquisitions. We're not seeing a roll-up, per se, [such as we saw] in applications, where Infor acquired a lot of ERP companies. Oracle has acquired a lot of ERP companies, and [it's] acquiring those as much for the customers as … for the products. What's happening in the BI space, from my perspective, is that acquisitions, for the most part, are focused on the products and not [on gaining] customers or market share.

How will IBM's Cognos acquisition affect SAP customers?

Hamerman: I don't see a downside for [SAP] customers as a result of this acquisition. In one sense it does put SAP and IBM more in competition with one another -- SAP is buying Business Objects and IBM is buying Cognos, and those two BI companies compete with each other pretty closely.

But from an overall perspective, Cognos still has a significant installed base in SAP [customers], and I don't see that relationship between IBM-Cognos and SAP changing. That's still a very good market for the stuff that Cognos sells.

How about Oracle's Hyperion acquisition?

Hamerman: The competitive dynamic is different: Oracle and SAP are stated rivals. They're partners on some levels, but for the most part they're very serious competitors. There's some competitive dynamics of how Oracle sells Hyperion into the SAP base. Those kind of competitive dynamics are not exactly what we're going to see with IBM-Cognos.

What's happening in the space overall is the partnering relationships among these big companies are so complex that they have to be compartmentalized on different levels in order to retain some of those partnerships, without jeopardizing them on things that are going on in different markets or on a higher level.

How would you rate the three large BI acquisitions by SAP, IBM and Oracle?

Hamerman: IBM's acquisition of Cognos is a lot cleaner than SAP's acquisition of Business Objects, because there's a whole lot more overlap between the SAP and Business Objects portfolios than there is between IBM and Cognos. Overall, it's a much more complementary acquisition from an integration standpoint than what SAP is doing with Business Objects, where they have a lot of product overlap.

The risk that you see when a vendor acquires another that has similar products is that the acquiring vendor needs to decide what product it leads with. In the case of Oracle's acquisition of Hyperion, it's very clear, Oracle is leading with Hyperion -- end of story. There are some other products that weren't doing as well, and they're being phased out. In the case of SAP and Business Objects, there's a lot of overlap, and it's not clear what the roadmaps are going to be with products such as budgeting, consolidation, things like that.

I think Oracle has a lot more experience in assimilating major acquisitions than SAP does. It's the first really big acquisition SAP has made; Oracle has made several of them, and I think [Oracle] has moved very quickly to integrate Hyperion -- integrate the company, integrate it into their product strategy. I think both [SAP's acquisition of Business Objects and Oracle's acquisition of Hyperion] had high levels of overlap, but I think Oracle executed well on it so far, [and] has come forth with clarity on its strategy [concerning the] products it's going to lead with. SAP has to go through that process, and I'm not sure it's going to be able to execute on it as quickly.

How could SAP's acquisition of overlapping technology be good for customers?

Hamerman: There's complementary technology that can be leveraged -- in the case of these products that solve business problems in the areas of planning or performance analytics, there's some vertical expertise, models and [intellectual property] that's been developed or customer experiences that can be leveraged across different product lines.

For example, Business Objects, one of their products has some specific planning models for the healthcare industry or the insurance industry. [SAP] could leverage those types of models in whatever product it decides to lead with for planning. My sense is it will be Outlooksoft, because when you look at the different products that support planning, budgeting and forecasting combined across the portfolio, I think Outlooksoft is a very good product.

So [SAP is] going to have to make decisions about how to rationalize these overlapping products and what to lead with. The problem right now is that this deal isn't done yet. [SAP has] to go through all the regulatory approvals and so forth to close the deal. Until [that is done], SAP really can't clarify its product roadmaps.

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