Business Objects Reloads Mid-Market Product Line
The rules of the mid-market game are changing, but Business Objects thinks it has an ace up its sleeve — its reporting expertise
With new releases of two of its signal SME offerings on tap this week, Business Objects — now an SAP AG company — hopes to build on its success in the small to mid-size company market. The rules of the mid-market game are changing, but one thing hasn’t changed: SME customers — much like their larger enterprise brethren — are still wild about reporting. It’s the bedrock of BI, after all.
That’s why Business Objects — which spent more than $800 million five years ago to acquire one of the best-known reporting brands on the market — thinks it has an ace up its sleeve. With the release this week of revamped versions of its Crystal Reports Server and Business Objects Edge products, officials are pulling out all of the stops to burnish the company’s mid-market credentials.
Prior to SAP’s acquisition, Business Objects fired off several successful mid-market offerings. It released Crystal Reports Server (a version of Crystal Reports that was packaged, tweaked, and configured for SMEs), Business Objects Edge bundle (a mid-market-ready version of its Business Objects enterprise software stack), and launched several initiatives (including its Business Objects Rapid Marts — basically, out-of-the-box data marts that provide turnkey integration with popular data sources such as SAP). James Thomas, vice-president of business intelligence tools — and long-time Crystal Reports point-person — with Business Objects, claims that his company knows SME customers: seven-eighths of its customer base is technically part of the mid-market.
“[Crystal Reports Server and Business Objects Edge] have been two of the most successful product launches in our history in terms of growth, and they continue to attract [mid-market] users who need a best-of-breed tool but can’t afford best-of-breed pricing,” he says. The products have done so in the face of competition from Microsoft Corp. (with its SQL Server-based BI stack) and the open source software (OSS) community.
“When users do the math, what they find is that we’re not that much more expensive than some of these other products that have come along in the meantime,” Thomas says, “The [lessons] we’ve [learned] with Crystal Reports Server we’ve applied to Edge. We’ve had over 6,000 customers [buying] these products over the last few years.”
There are plenty of new features in Crystal Reports Server 2008 and Business Objects Edge 3.0, Thomas points out. In the Crystal Reports reload, for example, there’s a new Web-based administration console; the purpose isn’t necessarily to simplify things for Crystal Reports administrators, according to Thomas — it’s to give users access to new (and hitherto unavailable) flexibility. “If you can configure your own desktop to add people and security rights just by turning them off and on [in a console], wouldn’t that be easier? Wouldn’t that be better?”
Business Objects also streamlined the Crystal Reports deployment experience, according to Thomas, who maintains that rolling out Crystal Reports Server is already comparatively simple thanks to the absence of enterprise amenities such as fault-tolerant or scalable compute resources. “The time-to-value that people get [with Crystal Reports 2008] is a matter of days and not months, and that’s very important to [mid-market] customers.”