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Issue Date: October 2007

Cognos CEO downplays SAP-Business Objects deal

October 2007
Jason Stamper

Cognos CEO, Rob Ashe, has said in an exclusive interview with ComputerWire that the acquisition by SAP of his company's fiercest rival creates a 'great opportunity' for Cognos.

Cognos' rival Business Objects was acquired by SAP in early October for $6,8bn, potentially bringing to an end many years of aggressive competition between the two leading business intelligence software vendors, Business Objects and Cognos.
The Business Objects technology will live on at SAP, but the deal has finally given Cognos the ability to assert without argument that it is now far and away the largest independent business intelligence software vendor.
"My immediate reaction was that this has created a great opportunity for us," Ashe told ComputerWire. "In this market, research has shown that by an order of two-to-one customers want an independent or pure-play vendor. The [SAP] ERP approach is different, it means that whatever they try to do, the pure-play will get aligned with their ERP."
As for the argument that aligning business intelligence more directly with the business processes handled by ERP and other application software means faster, more direct business intelligence, Ashe said: "I guess our fundamental belief is that BI is not about being sucked into core processes. That is a different domain. We think BI is about thinking about the business more like a model: you have different scenarios, different outcomes that you want to understand. Not just show what is happening in your ERP systems."
Ashe said the Business Objects acquisition by SAP was not a huge surprise, and had been rumored for some time. "They were having challenges growing their core business," he said, "and SAP's BI solution was not great. While we re-engineered our platform three to four years ago and achieved 12% organic license growth in our last quarter, Business Objects to our mind had followed a pretty linear strategy."
He also asserted that the acquisition will create considerable disruption for SAP and Business Objects as the technology is integrated.
But he did acknowledge that SAP has plenty of 'big, successful customers out there' and that it has a 'lot of influence'.
"We need to be clear about promoting what we have," Ashe said, "with our single, unified platform and the ability to analyse data from any ERP system. Ironically, SAP says it wants to keep Business Objects quite independent, but if you want independence, why not go to a pure-play?"
Ashe also claimed that any integration between analysis and reporting at Business Objects was merely at the interface layer, while the core modules remained independent. Cognos claims that its Cognos 8 launch integrated reporting and other business intelligence activities under a single platform.

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