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SAP teams with Microsoft in enterprise performance management space

Microsoft announces it will support SAP's BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation finance application, as the SAP enterprise performance management (EPM) product is optimized for growing Microsoft Office and SQL Server user bases.

SAP has entered a new partnership with Microsoft whereby Microsoft will support SAP's BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation enterprise performance management (EPM) application for its users.

The SAP EPM application, for unified planning and consolidations, is built on the Microsoft stack, and has as a front-end Excel, which is used most often by the finance function inside companies.

Microsoft has not had a product in the enterprise performance space since discontinuing PerformancePoint Server earlier this year. "We saw this as a white space that both [SAP and Microsoft] could address," said Sanjay J. Poonen, executive vice president and general manager, Performance Optimization Applications, SAP.

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Poonen said that BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation was "the only solution that was optimized for two critical user bases: those using Microsoft Office and those using SQL Server. "Many SAP customers are investing more in SQL Server-based solutions," he said.

SAP is focused on making its 80,000 to 90,000 customers more productive, Poonen said. "Our customers have been asking us for solutions that they can optimize inside Microsoft Office, Sharepoint, Powerpoint, Excel and SQL Server," he said. "Looking at this announcement, they see two big companies working together to accelerate user productivity."

Of SAP and Microsoft, he added, "We are singing from a common hymnal."

According to Poonen, SAP currently has more than 1,500 users for BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, the product that came out of its 2007 acquisition of OutlookSoft. He expects the product's user base to continue to grow rapidly because "it appeals to the bulk of those folks doing things in only spreadsheets rather than using a packaged tool like this. It will allow those customers to take unstructured one-off processes that they are using for budgeting and planning [and work with one program] instead of 30 versions of a spreadsheet."

The significance of the announcement to current SAP customers running on Microsoft platforms is that "SAP will be running on that platform for the long term," said Paul Hamerman, vice president of enterprise applications for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

He added that SAP customers also "will be able take advantage of the latest technology that Microsoft is bringing out."

BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation competes against Oracle's Hyperion line of performance management and analytics products. This is not the first time that SAP and Microsoft have teamed to create solutions that would compete against Oracle. The first was Duet, which helps SAP shops access and analyze data by linking SAP process functions directly with Microsoft's Office suite of desktop applications.

When asked whether SAP's latest announcement could provide any impetus for Duet, Poonen said: "Stay tuned. There are lots of different facets to this Microsoft announcement."

One didn't have to stay tuned for long: Shortly after the interview with Poonen, word emerged that Microsoft and SAP have jointly developed Duet Enterprise for Microsoft SharePoint and SAP, which will increase the interoperability of SAP applications with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010.

SAP has three other products in its SAP EPM portfolio: BusinessObjects Strategy Management, for setting goals, metrics, KPIs, etc.; BusinessObjects Financial Consolidation, for heavy-duty financial consolidations; and BusinessObjects Profitability & Cost Management, for identifying areas to reduce costs, optimizing profitability and taking corrective actions.

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