Business Objects Software

Business Objects software is used by over 40,000 customers throughout the world.

Founded in Paris in 1990, it has expanded through organic growth and acquisitions into a $1bn revenue software company by the end of 2007. In early 2008, Business Objects was acquired by the German software powerhouse SAP for $6.8bn.

As well as producing Business Objects software, the company also provides consulting and training either from it’s main offices or via it’s extensive partner network.

Business Objects has made a number of acquisitions in it’s history. Notable purchases include:

  • Blue Edge Software in 2001 (Scheduling software now incorporated into Broadcast Agent)
  • Acta Technologies in 2002(Actaworks product now incorporated into Data Integrator)
  • Crystal Decisions in 2003

This, together with a number of additional acquisitions, has allowed Business Objects to offer it’s users a full Business Objects software product stack.

ETL

Business Objects acquired Acta Technologies in 2002. Acta is known as the company that developed the Data Integrator application, a powerful GUI front end tool which gives Informatica a run for it’s money.

Business Objects Data Integrator offers tight integration into the rest of the Business Objects software stack – most notably it’s universe development product – Business Objects Designer. It can also work with multiple data source platforms – from SQL Server to Informix, from Teradata to Oracle, as well as a number of ERP and CRM applications.

Data Integrator can be run on several platforms including Windows HP-UX, Sun Solaris and AIX. It’s central database repository may be based on Oracle, SQL Server or DB2.

In 2007 Informatica filed a lawsuit against Business Objects in respect of several patent infringments. Informatica won this judgment and was awarded $25m in damages. A subsequent release of the Data Integrator product removed the contested patent inringements.

Designer (Universe/Cube design)

Through it’s Designer application, Business Objects introduces the concept of universes as it’s middle tier. This tier provides the link between the GUI reporting application and the database.

A Business Objects universe is based on a collection of objects (Dimensions, Measures and Details) which map to individual columns in the database tables. Additionally, custom columns can be created which can be made up multiple columns, sum of columns, etc. Filter objects can also be generated to restrict data at the report level. These objects are grouped into classes – logical grouping of objects and the formatting of the objects is done at Universe level.

Relationships between the tables are also defined at this level using the Designer tool. A graphical representation of the selected tables is displayed, allowing the designer to ‘connect’ the tables using the relevant columns/keys from each tables. These joins, together with the object information, allow Business Objects to generate the SQL code behind the scenes using a graphical object based front end tool such as Desktop Intelligence (Deski) or Business Objects Web Intelligence.

Each Universe is restrictd to one data source. There are ways around this via the use of table aliases at database level. Alternatively reports can be created in Desktop Intelligence or Web Intelligence from multiple data sources using multiple queries and universes and then logically joined on common object criteria.

Universes are the core of the Business Objects software stack. It is from Universes that the majority of reports and dashboards are developed. (Reports can be created over Excel data sources).

Reporting

Business Objects offers two reporting products – a desktop product and a web based product. The trend now is moving towards the web based product.

Its desktop based reporting product is called Desktop Intelligence (DESKI). It is also known as the full client. In previous versions this was known as Business Objects Reporter. This tool offers a wide range of functionality and allows complex reports to be generated.

Its web based reporting product is called Business Objects Web Intelligence. This is a server based application which can either be run as an Active X or Java based application (depending on the platform on which it was installed). It is also known as the thin client due to it’s small (or zero) footprint.

Earlier versions of the Web Intelligence product offered a reduced reporting subset of the full client reporting product. After many requests from the Business Objects user community, Business Objects have addressed this in the latest release of their software – Business Objects XI.

Business Objects reporting was further enhanced when the company acquired Crystal Decisions in 2003, considered by many to be one of their better purchases. Crystal Reports are widely used throughout the reporting industry due to it’s ability to be embedded into custom coded applications. The Crystal SDK was often bundled in with a number of Microsoft applications such as Micosoft Visual Studio and Microsoft
Visual Basic.

It should be noted that Business Objects reports created in the full client application can be read without problems in the Web Intelligence (thin client) application. However, this does not work the other way around. Reports created using Web Intelligence can only be view in the Web Intelligence/Infoview application and can not be opened in the full client.

Dashboards/Analytics

Business Objects offers a dashboard and analytic range of products which are accessed via Web Intelligence. These build upon its purchases of Xcelcius, Infommersion and SRC.

The Business Objects dashboards build upon the Business Objects Enterprise stack by providing point-and-click and interactive data visualization functionality to existing data. The dashboards can also be used ‘live’ in applications such as Microsoft Office, Adobe PDF, the Web, Crystal
Reports 2008 or a Business Intelligence (BI) Portal.

Security

Early versions of Business Objects software included an application called Business Objects Supervisor. This provided supervisors with the ability to create and delete accounts, apply permissions to various reports and universes as well as general maintenance.

Following it’s purchase of Crystal Decisions, this functionality has now been replaced with the Crystal Server security model and integrated into Business Objects XI. The security functionality is now accessed via the XI server portal.

Scheduling

Report scheduling and delivery is handled by an application called Business Objects Broadcast Agent.

Based on technology it purchased from Blue Edge Software in 2002, Broadcast Agent provides functionality to schedule and distribute reports to users or network folders at allocated times. Custom macros can also be
written to pass in specific values at run time.

In the XI release of Business Objects, custom calendars can be created and attached to scheduled reports to refresh on user defined dates, making it a very powerful scheduling tool.

The Future

Business Objects was acquired by SAP in 2008. SAP is a world leader in the business software market, especially in the finance, retail and manufacturing industries.

Following customer concerns about the purchase, SAP has stated that it intends to keep Business Objects software as a separate entity threby ensuring it’s unique status in the BI industry.


Business Objects Software

Business Intelligence Software