Liautaud: Bringing Business Objects to the Next Level

Q&A: The company's chief strategist and former CEO says his goals for the company are growth and being among the top 10 software companies.

A relatively stable company, Business Objects S.A. has had a shake-up or two recently at its top levels. The companys founder, chairman and former CEO, Bernard Liautaud, stepped down from the helm of the Paris-based company Sept. 11.

Liautaud named former Symantec Corp. President John Schwarz as his successor at Business Objects, and took on the new role of chief of strategy for the company. Liautaud will maintain his chairmanship.

As the chief strategist, Liautaud is making it his goal to take business intelligence to the next level by reaching a much broader audience. Hes doing that by expanding functionality and making Business Objects software easier to use. To this end, the company released the 2.0 version of its Business Objects XI platform on Sept. 27.

The release introduces a new user interface that makes it much easier to query back-end databases—and makes the Business Object tools accessible to more people. Liautaud spoke with eWEEK Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson about his plans for the future.

eWEEK: There were some executive shifts at Business Objects earlier this month. What happened there?

Liautaud: I founded this company 15 years ago, ran it as the CEO of 15 years and had a great run. The company is at an interesting stage. We have grown to becoming a billion-dollar company and were looking at the next phase of growth, from a billion to a multibillion-dollar company.

I felt it was a natural time for me to bring in a manager who has the experience of taking the company to the next level.

Schwarz has done it once at Symantec. [Naming Schwarz] has accomplished several things: Its a good time to separate the two roles—chairman and CEO; its a good time to bring someone who is going to manage the next phase of growth; and its a good time to have someone who is really focused on long term strategy and vision. When a company is at this stage, its very important to have strong clarity of where were taking company. [With this in mind] I went to board about six months ago, to propose the change.

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here to read more about Schwarzs move from Symantec.

Were there some other things that precipitated your move to chief strategy officer?

The market is in great shape. I believe that business intelligence is becoming one of the most important areas of the software industry. Most companies are moving toward BI now that theyve finished their ERP [enterprise resource planning] implementations—BI has become one of top two or three top priorities of CIOs. It is very exciting. So there is nothing in industry that would bring change—its more me, personally, what I think is best to develop.

What are your new roles and responsibilities?

Ive been chairman since the very beginning, and will continue that duty, leading the board, supervising the direction of the agency. And as well, I will be 100 percent engaged in the strategy of the company.

What are your plans there?

Exactly what my role is about: Defining and helping the rest of team build a strategy to go forward. We want to be a multi-billion dollar company. Ive set a goal of being amongst the top 10 software companies, and there area a lot of growth opportunities we want to capitalize on.

First is within large enterprises. One is to really get behind the hands of a much larger group of users than BI is now. Its not been democratized yet. Theres still very small usage.

We believe only about 15 percent of potential users [actually use the software]. The other area of growth is around the development and deployment of strategic performance applications, as opposed to just look at BI as a way to deploy reporting, and analyze the path of organization.

Now its about BI to help drive the future performance of company.

This is a key element to move Business Objects in a much strategic relationship—weapon—to large enterprise.

The goal is to establish a much more strategic relationship with the customer. Today, we are that strategic partner but weve not reached that many [employees].

Where does technology come into play with your strategy?

Its an evolving process. Were bringing new innovations. The Intelligent Question [released Sept. 27 with Business Objects XI 2.0 release] is very exciting. Its a new paradigm.

Thats one brand new innovation with release 2.0. Going forward, [well look at] how we can deploy BI to even larger numbers of users, and to other devices—using mobile technology will towards future releases.

Now weve focused energy on enabling people on desktops and PCs, to really use the information. Intelligent Question is an example.

What we do with integrating Microsoft Office—we now have embedded BI within Office products—is another example.

Next Page: Business Objects embedded in Office.