Business Objects Sets the Roadmap for Its Acquisition of Crystal Decisions
By Fern B. Halper
Software acquisitions are often a tricky business, so we were very interested to speak with Business Objects, a Business Intelligence leader, who recently completed the acquisition of Crystal Decisions, a company that excels in reporting. Knowing that its competitor Cognos has recently built their own reporting software, we wanted to understand Business Object’s integration roadmap as well as the migration path for both sets of customers. We were impressed with what we heard.
Software Compatibility: Customers are concerned about integrating pieces of software. They want to know: can these software products work together? If not, what is the plan to get them to work together?
Business Object’s idea is specialized tools, common infrastructure. This makes a lot of sense. Business Objects is not hiding Crystal and they are not forcing “their religion” on customers. A clear integration strategy has been specified. Business Objects will provide the data integration, the semantic layer, the portal, their query and analysis capabilities, as well as their performance manager, dashboard. Crystal will provide additional infrastructure (developer services, security), along with their OLAP client and their report authoring capabilities. Business Objects analytical software applications will be used.
Customer Migration: Customers are concerned about the migration path for the software. They want to know: can I stick with the software I have? Will the product I have be supported? If so, for how long? How much will the “new product” cost me? Does it have the functions that I need?
In terms of migration, Business Objects feels that “no customer should be left behind”. They have specified a dual migration path which gives customers the opportunity to migrate to a common platform over a several year period. They have also stated that no core products have a planned end of life. In reality, customers have about four years to migrate to the new platform.
Marketing: Often, one goal of an acquisition is to take advantage of cross-selling opportunities in the existing customer bases of both companies. How does the new company make the software appealing to prospects from both groups?
With its migration roadmap in place, its planned media blitz, and its multi-city/country visits and seminars to users, Business Objects should be able to convince their customers that the acquisition is good for all. As a by product of this strategy, they will also promptly quiet any noise being made by their competitors about the acquisition and its negative impact on customers.
The technology issues appear to be worked out, at least on paper. All that remains is the execution. Marketing issues, cultural issues, and more remain to be seen. But so far, Business Objects is off to a good start.
Fern B. Halper is Principal and Senior Consultant of Hurwitz & Associates, a consulting, research, and analyst firm focused on emerging software markets. She can be reached at email@example.com