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Business Objects Acquires FUZZY!, Unveils Integrated PM Suite

It’s been a busy fortnight for Business Objects, which achieved data quality and performance management milestones.

Rival Cognos Inc. spent $340 million to acquire Applix Inc. and burnish its own performance management (PM) credentials, but Business Objects SA was busy, too. The business intelligence (BI) giant today announced its first "completely integrated" enterprise performance management (EPM) offering, Business Objects EPM XI—based on technology it acquired just four months ago from the former Cartesis SA.

Elsewhere, Business Objects last week acquired still more data quality expertise, this time in the form of FUZZY! Informatik, a German data quality specialist.

The FUZZY! Acquisition comes on top of Business Objects' acquisition of the former Firstlogic Corp., a best-of-breed company that gave it one of the most bankable data quality technologies on the market.

Business Objects' EPM XI announcement is easily that company’s most aggressive salvo to date in its ongoing struggle against Cognos and ERP giant SAP AG, against whom it is vying for the number two position in the PM market segment—behind market leader Oracle Corp. (Cognos is the current number two, with both Business Objects and SAP nipping at its heels.)

For starters, says Trevor Walker, vice-president of product marketing with Business Objects, EPM XI ships with an integrated Profitability component—a feature he claims is missing from some competitive solutions, including Cognos’ offerings. Business Objects picked up Profitiability from the former Armstrong Laing Limited (ALG) Software last September, and Cartesis—which was a respected best-of-breed provider of financial performance management software—brought a raft of other PM amenities to the table, too.

"In EPM XI, … all of the Cartesis products, along with the prior SRC and ALG products, are integrated into the XI platform, which gives us an independent best-of-breed EPM suite. These [acquired vendors] were all best-of-breed companies. And [these products have] been fully integrated," Walker argues, noting that Business Objects has had ample time to integrate the people and technology assets of both SRC (that acquisition took place in July of 2005) and ALG (that acquisition took place a year ago).

The integration of Cartesis was helped, he claims, by Business Objects’ integrated data model, or IDM. "What we’ve done in four months is to bring everything around the data model and plug it into the XI platform, so I would argue [this integrated data model] gives us a platform for us to bring this stuff very quickly in a way that makes sense to the business user."

EPM XI bundles Cartesis’ finance and performance management solutions and ALG’s profitability tools with the bread and butter Business Objects XI platform. It supports a range of typical PM scenarios, including forecasting, cost control, and closing. Add it all up, Walker claims, and Business Objects now has the makings of a formidable PM entry—formidable enough, he maintains, to challenge not just Cognos and SAP, but also market leader Oracle, too. (Oracle rocketed to the top of the PM market heap when it acquired the former Hyperion Solutions Corp. earlier this year.)

"When Cartesis was a separate organization, obviously as a smaller [company] that didn’t have a presence in North America, Hyperion … had a lot more mindshare than [we did]," explains Walker, who is a Cartesis veteran.

"With Essbase, whatever their applications couldn’t cover, people would invest services and internal resources to build applications on top of Essbase. When you look at the depth of the acquisitions [Business Objects has made], even beyond Cartesis, with the [attendant] richness of the analytics and the BI capabilities that they bring to the table, I think you’ll see a movement away from Hyperion. We’ve had a number of accounts where we got in with our consolidation system and they stopped using Essbase and increasingly moved over to us."

Not surprisingly, EPM XI has a services component, too. Business Objects plans to offer consulting services to help speed EPM XI implementations, Walker says.

"Our thinking is, let us take care of the integration for you so that you can continue to turn your attention to things that are really important to you—things like speeding your closing budget, which is on the top of the list for most CFOs," he indicates. "We’re giving you all of the products that you need to gain efficiency in your closing process. And [with the services component], we’ve also taken care of the integration and defined the business processes that are necessary so that you as the CFO can focus on doing your job."

The good news—at least for IT pros who tend to take a dim view of bundled services (which are frequently costly) —is that EPM XI will be available sans services, too.

FUZZY! and Data Quality

Just two months ago, Business Objects announced a new revision of its Data Quality XI offering, touting—among other improvements—internationalization enhancements.

Last week’s acquisition of German data quality specialist FUZZY! Informatik builds on these features, analysts say, and helps recast Business Objects as a data quality player to be reckoned with outside of North America—especially in important markets such as Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

"The acquisition of FUZZY! continues Business Objects’ foray into internationalization issues for data quality, as we saw recently with the release of Business Objects’ Universal Data Quality product," says Philip Russom, senior manager at TDWI Research. "The acquisition gives Business Objects a lot more functionality for handling natural languages and postal addresses in European, Middle-Eastern, and African nations.

In this respect, Russom continues, FUZZY!—which has 50 employees and 340 customers—is important both for its technology and its relationships.

"[T]here’s a lot more to it than software functionality," Russom notes. "For name-and-address cleansing software to operate accurately and deeply, the software’s referential database of names and addresses for a nation must be up-to-date and contain granular information." FUZZY! has long-standing relationships with national and regional postal authorities across EMEA, which are the sources of most of the referential data used in such applications, he says.

"These relationships—and the granular, recent data that comes from them—are a critical factor for successful name-and-address cleansing, especially on an international scale," Russom observes.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at [email protected].

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