Cognos to Play Delilah?

One of the lone remaining pure-play business intelligence companies has its eye on Business Objects' customers.

Business intelligence software vendor Cognos is making goo-goo eyes at Business Objects customers unsettled by news that their vendor has been acquired by SAP.

Business Objects, based in Paris and San Jose, Calif., is being bought by business applications vendor SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, for about $6.78 billion.

The deal has stirred speculation that Cognos, now one of the lone remaining pure-play business intelligence companies of any size, will soon be in play itself.

More importantly, the sale may give BI customers leverage in negotiating better deals with their current vendors.

Cognos has already gone on the offensive in the hopes of capitalizing on customer restlessness or worries about product overlaps and roadmaps.

Like many a temptress before it, Cognos sees opportunity in the domestic travails of others. Once their deal closes, SAP and Business Objects have to rationalize dozens of overlapping planning, reporting, dashboarding, scorecarding and analytic applications, leaving customers to wonder which of their tools will continue to be supported and which they may have to ditch.


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A formal program to attract possible Business Object defectors is already being considered by Cognos, said Mychelle Mollot, vice president of marketing strategy. "These are the types of things we look at when a company makes an acquisition like this," she said.

Whats good for the goose is, of course, good for the gander. SAP itself is no stranger to playing footsies with the customers of acquisition targets, having done much the same with customers of PeopleSoft after its acquisition by Oracle.

Mollot said the two companies will have to spend years integrating their products, which she likened to just getting the plumbing right, while Cognos will remain free to innovate.

The Business Objects deal "is an admission that SAPs strategy in business intelligence and performance management wasnt cutting it," she said.

SAP sees things differently, of course. The combination of the two companies product portfolios will allow SAP to cover the business intelligence space "better than anybody else," SAP CEO Henning Kagermann said during a conference call to announce the deal.


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SAP also expects the agreement to improve its position in the SMB [small and medium sized business] space and strengthen its platform play.

Cognos, which is based in Ottawa, Ontario, and Burlington, Mass., has itself made a pair of much smaller acquisitions in the BI space this year. The company in September announced its intention to buy Applix for $339 million and Celequest in January for an undisclosed amount, respectively.