What is it?
Like other business intelligence suppliers, Business Objects has been expanding its product suite from its origins in query and reporting. Datawarehousing capabilities - extracting, transforming and loading data from corporate databases, enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management systems - came with the acquisition of Acta Technology in 2002. In December 2003, Business Objects bought enterprise reporting supplier Crystal Decisions.
The range of users has been extended from senior management and professional business analysts, with tools that can be deployed at low cost throughout the organisation.
Business Objects is also striving to take the lead in business performance metrics and management.
Business intelligence suppliers (and jobs) are likely to get a boost from new corporate compliance legislation, which requires more stringent reporting.
Where did it originate?
Business Objects was founded in France in 1990. Although its headquarters are in San Jose, California, the company shows strong evidence of its Gallic roots: the chief executive and head of R&D are based in Paris.
What's it for?
The Business Objects suite includes web-based query, reporting and analysis tools, a business intelligence portal, a datawarehouse, and integration with enterprise software using native interfaces acquired with Acta Technology. What chief executive Bernard Liautaud calls the "democratisation" of business intelligence comes from Web Intelligence, which allows ad hoc query and analysis.
What makes it special?
Business Objects says it is moving from being "report-centric" to "metric centric", from reporting on past events to providing more timely information. Real-time alerts can be sent from operational systems to enterprise management dashboards. The object is to make such dashboards a daily business tool for most users.
How difficult is it to master?
You will need a grasp of relational database concepts and an understanding of report creation from the user perspective.
Where is it used?
According to Business Objects, it has more than 24,000 users in 80 countries - this surged from 18,000 users with the Crystal acquisition. More than 80 of the Fortune 100 companies use Business Objects, but most use up to four other business intelligence packages too. The largest deployment is 70,000 users. Customers include BT, BAT, Ikea, Time Warner, Nestl' and Scottish Power.
Not to be confused with...
The Object Management Group's Common Business Objects, which represents semantics common across most businesses.
What systems does it run on?
Most current operating systems; Olap servers, including Hyperion Essbase, IBM DB2 Olap Server, Oracle9i Olap, Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services and SAP BW; and open standards such as LDap, Soap and J2EE application servers.
What's coming up?
Integration with Crystal Decisions, to be completed by the end of 2005. The next release will be Business Objects 6.5, integrating with Crystal Decisions 10, but Philip Howard of Bloor Research said the following release will be Business Objects 11. "So, and this is the big surprise, the combined product set will be based on the Crystal infrastructure and not that of Business Objects," he said. "It will be much easier for people to migrate to Business Objects from Crystal environments than from the existing Business Objects environment."
Training is available from Business Objects' regional training centres and independent trainers.
Rates of pay
Junior analysts can expect £25,000 to £30,000, and senior analysts and designers are paid £30,000 to £35,000.