Business Objects Gets Predictive With Help from SPSS - InformationWeek

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Business Objects Gets Predictive With Help from SPSS

Filling a gap in its portfolio, BI vendor adds analytics through a partnership with a SAS rival.

Business Objects may be the largest business intelligence vendor, but in striking an original equipment manufacturer agreement today with SPSS, it acknowledged that it needed to fill a crucial gap in the area of predictive analytics.

Under the terms of the OEM arrangement, the BusinessObjects XI platform will gain two predictive analytics data mining offerings. The BusinessObjects Predictive Workbench will be a co-branded, "Powered by SPSS" version of SPSS Clementine integrated with the BusinessObjects Universe semantic layer to enable data mining experts to develop predictive models.

"The Universe becomes a data source, and you will then run your modeling within the Workbench and ultimately send the results back to the Universe for further analysis," says James Thomas, Business Object's vice president of BI Content and tools.

In a second phase of integration, BusinessObjects Predictive Services will be integrated with the BI vendor's Web Intelligence query and analysis tool to expose predictive capabilities to ordinary business users through reports and documents.

"Predictive Services will give business users a simpler and more compelling way to understand where their business is headed in areas such as sales and customer churn, and what interesting trends may lie underneath their business intelligence content," says Thomas.

If, for example, a Web Intelligence report details customer sales by region, running the detailed data through predictive algorithms would return deeper insights into best customers, customers likely to churn and those likely to respond to cross-sell and up-sell campaigns.

In the wake of October's announcement that SAP would acquire Business Objects, rival SAS openly derided Business Objects as having "shallow" capabilities in the area of analytics, a point that Thomas now concedes: "We've been working with the 'predictive' concept for a number of years, but we had just a few algorithms buried in our product line and we just didn't offer the scope of predictive functionality that our customers were asking for."

For SPSS, the Business Objects deal bolsters its strategy to extend its predictive capabilities through partnerships. "We don't own the data, nor do we own the delivery mechanisms to get the data and the predictive analytics out to the end users, so Business Objects is a perfect partner for us to do that with," says Patrick McCue, vice president of global alliances. "We've had joint-marketing success with companies like Oracle, Microstrategy and SAP, but as we started planning for 2008, we put a big focus on the channel and on deeper OEM relationships."

SPSS already has OEM relationships with Hewlett-Packard and J.D. Edwards, and McCue says most SPSS OEM targets would consider SAS to be a competitor. "That gives us a competitive advantage against SAS to be able to go out into a customer base with that partner leading the way," he adds. "Once we sell the data mining/predictive piece, we have a plethora of other products that our sales team can sell, such as text mining, real-time decision making and statistics."

Thomas says the Clementine-based Predictive Workbench will be added within the first half of 2008. Predictive Services may take longer to integrate because it will change the Web Intelligence user interface.

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