The Science of Business Intelligence

In an exclusive interview, Bernard Liautaud, CEO of Business Objects, discusses the state of his company and the spread of business intelligence.

Bernard Liautaud has led business intelligence software developer Business Objects S.A. since its inception in 1990. Liautaud sat down with eWEEK Senior Writer Dennis Callaghan at the DCI Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing Conference in Boston in late September to discuss a number of topics, including the continued integration of Crystal Decisions Inc., which Business Objects acquired in a monumental deal last year, BI platform standardization, business performance management, patent disputes, the Oracle Corp.-PeopleSoft Inc. deal and the future of BI as information services.

Business intelligence software vendors seem to be doing better than enterprise application software vendors in this economy. What trends in the industry are driving growth for Business Objects?

Overall, the business intelligence space has done well, primarily because I think theres been a natural evolution of companies wanting to get more out of their information systems. … Companies are saying, "OK, we now have put SAP in place, weve put PeopleSoft in place, what did we get? We get automated transactions. We still dont have a unified view of the enterprise." So theres clearly a push towards that.

The other thing is companies have invested in business intelligence in the past several years. So its not brand-new. They have invested in having little pockets of BI here and there in their organizations. So theyre looking at this and saying, "We need now to have a BI strategy across the enterprise. Its a way to get that single version of the truth that were looking for. Its a way also to reduce our total cost of ownership. And, therefore, we want to standardize on one solution."

So we see a big push towards standardization. A number of companies also want to reduce the number of suppliers that they have in general. So I think theres a natural tendency to move toward the leaders in the categories in a time like that.

Is there any particular area of your business thats driving growth right now?

The new drivers for us are performance management and data integration. Data integration is the core of what we do underneath the main BI platform. Performance management and analytic applications are new drivers that weve had now for a couple of years. But its driven by the need of companies to have more dashboards, scorecards, metrics management and to move to a higher sort of strategic business intelligence implementation, as opposed to just putting in place a reporting infrastructure. Now its: "How can I drive my business performance using these new forms of business intelligence—scorecards, metrics, goals setting and so on." Thats the fastest driver of our growth.

Of course, one thing thats had the biggest impact on Business Objects is the Crystal acquisition, which has basically enabled us to double our size. In 03, we were around a $450 million run rate; this year, well be on a $900 million run rate. And that enabled us to take a clear No. 1 position in the space.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Business Objects purchase of Crystal Decisions.

Isnt it true that most of your customers still have mixed business intelligence environments—using different vendors for different BI applications?

I think a number of them have. We have a very large customer base—we have 26,000 customers. And still a number of them have mixed platforms.

Can you point to any numbers that show a trend toward your customers standardizing on Business Objects technology?

If you looked at the last quarter, we had 33 deals that we would qualify as standardization, which was the highest number that weve ever had. We also tracked a number of larger transactions, transactions over $1 million in license. We had eight in Q2, which was higher than weve ever had, and its been growing progressively. So I think were starting to see larger transactions and metrics for standardization are going up.

Next page: The Oracle-PeopleSoft effect.