Business Objects chief juggles independence, integration with SAP

Nearly three months after closing the biggest merger in its history, SAP has set the dual challenge of integrating Business Objects' BI tools more tightly with its enterprise resource planning software, while also maintaining the independence of those tools to appeal to non-SAP customers.

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We are also working in the data integration area to share components in the Master Data Management solution. So SAP has a Master Data Management solution that's currently built primarily to underpin the collection and migration of data into the SAP processes, but we'd like to use it as a way to manage all of the data in the enterprise, whether it's SAP or non-SAP.

What's the timeframe for that?

Schwarz: There will be a continuing stream of improvements coming out in MDM, but because it's such a relatively new field it's hard to predict when there's going to be a definitive end-to-end MDM solution.

Right now we're focused on the PIM [product information management] side because that's where it grew up from. We'd like to deliver a CRM version of MDM and ultimately an HR version for employee data. There's a lot of development going on, I'm just not able to give you a date and say that by the end of the year it will be finished. I doubt if that's likely to be the case.

You have two goals with this merger: to integrate Business Objects technologies more tightly with SAP, but also to stay independent and work with non-SAP platforms. They seem like conflicting goals; how do you reconcile them?

Schwarz: Let me start by explaining the business justification. Business Objects is coming to SAP with more than 70 percent of its revenue based on non-SAP environments. SAP did not spend over $6 billion to lose 70 percent of the revenue that Business Objects brings to the table, it's essential to maintain the run rate in our business.

So we're very committed to it on that basis alone. Secondly, SAP's justification for buying Business Objects was at least partly to increase its own addressable market, and how better than by going after platforms that are non-SAP?

Now, you are right, as you go after this broad market there are trade-offs. The trade-offs are mitigated by SOA. SAP is committed to SOA architecture across the board; all of the services that one needs to see and integrate into SAP are now surfaced using SOA interfaces, and that makes it easy because Business Objects was also an SOA-architected business.

I can see the business incentive, but the challenge is to say independent while giving [SAP CEO] Henning Kagermann the tight integration that he's looking for.

Schwarz: Yes, but I think in that context my challenge is no greater than Rob Ashe's [the former CEO of Cognos, now part of IBM]. IBM is a very neutral company and wants Cognos to support DB2 [IBM's database] as well as Oracle.

If you really want to have a BI component inside a large software company you've got to let the BI component live as it did before, otherwise you destroy its value. Maybe that's not so important for Oracle and Microsoft who are focused on a vertical stack, so Hyperion may have a tougher time in that regard than we do.

Do you see Microsoft emerging quickly as a competitor? They're adding a lot of BI capabilities to SQL Server and tying that to Dynamics.

Schwarz: Microsoft is a credible competitor -- certainly, the technology they are developing for individual users or individual applications is interesting. It's not an enterprise solution yet. Will it ever get there?

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