With all of the acquisitions happening in the business intelligence space, customers are in a state of confusion. What do all of these changes mean - both short term and long term? In my view, it is best to take a pragmatic approach to this changing market landscape. This acquisition spree in BI is impacting as many as 80,000 customers who use business intelligence software from Hyperion, Business Objects, or Cognos. What should customers be asking their vendors about the future directions of their products? All three BI vendors have either just been acquired or are soon to be acquired by three large IT companies - Oracle, SAP, and IBM, respectively. Is it business as usual or do the IT managers need to alter their business relationships and plans for business intelligence implementations now that a wave of consolidation is underway?
Customer concerns about the re-alignment in the business intelligence area tend to fall into three categories: impact on legacy environments, impact on future buying decisions, and technical innovation. Management issues will vary with how business intelligence software has been deployed at their companies and how well integrated this software has been with other information management software.
Legacy environments. Many companies tend to use BI tools for traditional management reporting. In general, they like to stick with what they know and what their users are trained to use. Therefore, they want to be assured that they can continue using the familiar reporting tools in the same way. While most managers assume that once an acquisition is complete, there will be new operating efficiencies. What they don't always know is whether those efficiencies will translate to savings. They also would like to understand how the company might benefit from the fact that a larger company with more resources has bought the company they have been dealing with. How will my company benefit from the acquisition? Will there be any changes in the sales and service teams? What about pricing issues and planned upgrades?
Typically, it will take a while before changes are evident. For example, if you are getting good value from your use of Crystal Reports-the Business Objects' reporting solution designed to support business modeling, analysis, and decision making - it really may not matter to you which company purchased Business Objects.
Ironically, some of the most important issues that might emerge happen when customers merge with each other. For example, one company might have standardized on Cognos for its analysis and reporting while the company being acquired uses Business Objects as a standard. Since large enterprises rely on business intelligence software to gain insight into production, sales, revenue, or other data across divisions and subsidiaries, too many tools may make decision making more difficult.
It is interesting that these acquisitions are hitting the market at the same time that companies are trying to move from a departmental view of data to an enterprise perspective. A unified and standardized approach to information management across the enterprise is becoming a top priority. Companies that have accumulated many different BI vendor software may use this time of change to re-evaluate a BI strategy.
Typically companies are used to managing multiple software components from multiple vendors. The expectation is that the consolidation of two or more of a single vendor will lead to benefits resulting from the tighter integration of the products. This is often the best outcome in terms of support, training, and management. However, this is typically a multi-year effort by the vendors building a unified portfolio based on acquired software. As businesses move from a traditional siloed single purpose data warehouse to information integration and analytics, having one vendor to call is often a welcome change as companies try to simplify the management of its infrastructure.
Impact on Future Buying Decisions
The situation may be a little different if a customer is in the middle of a proof of concept (POC) for a project designed to develop a single view of a company's customer base. How will the recent acquisitions in the business intelligence market impact how businesses to move forward?
Consider the example of a large bank that had recently made a significant acquisition. The bank wanted to understand its most profitable customers across the newly merged company. Customer history and sales data was retained in a siloed manner by line of business and there was no integration between the data for the two companies. This company used Cognos for many of their executive level reports, but now management had raised concerns about data quality.
In order to develop a single view of customer they needed to look for incompatibilities and inconsistencies in the disparate data sources. These data sources needed to be integrated and IT needed to assure the business that the information was accurate, complete, and trust worthy. The bank selected Informatica to provide the software needed to help with the integration and to improve the quality of its data.
Informatica has a comprehensive solution for data integration and data quality. In addition, just a few months ago Informatica and Cognos announced an expansion of their strategic relationship. This partnership fit well into the CIO's priority to consolidate all the many disconnected vendors in use in IT and to ensure that the integrations between different applications are as tightly integrated as possible. Now, suddenly Cognos is part of IBM and a direct competitor to Informatica. What should the CIO do? Certainly IBM is committed to supporting all of Cognos' existing partnerships. You should not have to change your plans because of the acquisition, however there are questions to ask about how things will change in the future.
All the BI vendors mentioned above have well-established partner relationships with emerging information management software companies. There has been a lot of customer support for the creation of tighter integrations between the information management infrastructure and the business intelligence layer. Companies have recognized that the reporting structure becomes meaningless if the supporting data cannot be trusted.
The partnerships have been important because much of the important innovation comes from small emerging companies. Partnerships with major players makes it easier for the company to leverage innovation with lower risk. The established players can provide the integration with the analytics and reporting technology. As companies attempt to unlock much of the data that has been previously unreachable at the enterprise level, it will become much more important to have a unified approach to information quality, information integration, and business intelligence. Market consolidation will help ensure that innovation is better utilized in a predictable manner.