SAP to Plug BI Into Business All-In-One

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SAP is planning to infuse its Business All-in-One ERP (enterprise resource planning) product for midsized companies with preconfigured BI (business intelligence) software from its Business Objects division, the company announced Wednesday at the Cebit conference in Hanover, Germany.

Users will be able to conduct ad-hoc queries and analysis of their business data, viewing information through pre-built dashboards and reports, SAP said. The new capabilities will be available later this year in Brazil, Germany and the US. Other countries will be added later, according to SAP.

"I suspect this goes all the way back to the reason they bought Business Objects," said Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research. "They saw a fit between their customer base and what Business Objects offered. This looks like an installed base marketing opportunity."

Another analyst voiced a note of caution, however. While the BI and ERP worlds have been merging for some time, the new BI features must "be thought about really carefully from an architectural standpoint to make sure it's adding a real benefit for customers," said Rebecca Wettemann of Nucleus Research. "Is this a net benefit or is it adding another layer of complexity to the [ERP] application?"

But Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson said via e-mail that the pre-built BI model is "the way to go" for midmarket products, "since building customized BI solutions is very expensive ($5-$7 for services for every $1 spent on software)."

"Unfortunately it does not work that simply in large enterprises, where data sources and applications are typically highly customized, and therefore you can't really just 'drop' a pre-built BI solution on top of them," he added. "But small and midsize companies tend to do a lot less customization of their ERP and other apps, mostly using out-of-the-box functionality, so there, pre-built BI solutions are a natural fit."

Pricing information was not immediately available.

Also Wednesday, SAP announced plans to work with Intel to optimize the performance of its Business One application for small companies on systems powered by Intel's Xeon chip. Channel partners will be urged to combine the technologies into bundles aimed at various verticals, SAP said.

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