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Business Objects enhances midmarket business intelligence tool

Business Objects will release new versions of Edge and Crystal Reports for midmarket customers.

Business Objects this week announced new releases of two of its marquee business intelligence (BI) tools, which the company says will deliver more functionality for less money for midmarket customers.

Edge 3.0, a BI kit for the midmarket, has all the capabilities of the enterprise-level product, Enterprise XI 3.0, including mobile BI access. Crystal Reports Server 2008, the company's reporting platform, allows customers to securely view, print, share and schedule through Microsoft Office applications, according to Business Objects. SAP purchased Business Objects in October 2007.

New, concurrent licensing models make this software accessible to a greater number of users, according to James Thomas, vice president of BI tools for Business Objects. Edge starts at $16,500 for five concurrent users. Crystal Reports starts at $2,495 for five fixed users, and $6,495 for five concurrent users. Both products are available now.

"We're not pricing them to the point people can't afford to have them," Thomas said. "They can't afford not to have them."

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More affordable BI software has made the technology accessible to companies like SoleTechnology, a Lake Forest, Calif.-based action sports footwear and apparel retailer with $200 million a year in revenue. Users there are testing Edge 3.0 and appreciate the extended support for Xcelsius, which creates dashboards, and the Web intelligence tool that allows them to share reports in the same format regardless of how they send it out, according to George Bock, IT director.

"We spend a lot of time analyzing our inventory and understanding what our production needs are going to be," Bock said. "We're pretty excited about the enhancement that Business Objects has put in. It's … evident Business Objects has been listening."

BI has helped SoleTechnology consolidate data and has helped its employees put more trust in that data, Bock said. Executives don't have to worry about multiple instances of data creeping into conversations.

"We need [BI] more than the big guys," Bock said. "It's been prohibitive for so long because we couldn't afford the tools. This has leveled the playing field in a lot of ways."

Increasing affordability is the reason BI has become more important in the midmarket, according to Madan Sheina, analyst with London-based Ovum Research. It's now within the reach of firms that had been priced out by sticker shock, the time required, and complex implementation cycles, he said.

Larger companies such as Business Objects are being pushed to offer cheaper offerings by market consolidation and new distribution models like open source and Software as a Service (SaaS).

"The old Cognos, Business Objects, Hyperion Solutions and MicroStrategys of this world can no longer get away with peddling premium-priced BI and analytics tools," Sheina said.

Business Objects' strategy of offering functionality similar to that of enterprise-level tools is great for midmarket customers.

"It's a wise strategy to push as much rich functionality into midmarket BI offerings, rather than forcing them onto a fully enterprise platform," Sheina said. "A common mistake that vendors make is to assume that a 'lite' version of their enterprise BI products will satisfy midmarket needs. It won't."

For customers on current maintenance, these new releases will be upgrades, Thomas said. Business Objects estimates that it has about 800 customers using the current release of the Edge package and 5,000 using Crystal Reports.

"These are probably the fastest-growing products we have in the company," Thomas said, "and they are still within the reach of budgets."

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