All-in-one business intelligence platforms may not be so smart

The business intelligence powers that be--platform players such as Business Objects, Cognos, SAS and others--are all agog over the all-in-one platform. And they'd like you to be just as enthusiastic, too.

However, the best-of-breed vendors don't exactly seem to be quaking in their Aeron chairs. Do they know something you don't?

The truth, many best-of-breeders say, is that customers just aren't all that enamored about all-in-one convenience. More to the point, some best-of-breed vendors argue, the convenience of the one-stop BI platform is offset by hidden costs: as companies that adopted ERP or CRM software discovered, all-in-one synergy can come at enormous cost, especially in terms of people and process changes, implementation and integration difficulties, and other intangibles.

Take Actuate, for example. It's an operational reporting mainstay, enterprise reporting power player, and prominent proponent of what at least one analyst has called a "better-than-spreadsheet spreadsheet" app.

Actuate's value proposition is simple: It provides the back-end plumbing--synchronization and replication, metadata management, security and other essentials--for a rich spreadsheet-based client reporting experience. Over the years, the company has made a lot of hay out of Excel and its shortcomings. It pitches its e.Spreadsheet product, for example, by promising to reduce or eliminate "spreadmart hell" (the proliferation of multiple, unmanaged, un-reconciled spreadsheets based on often outdated source data). More recently, the company expanded into the performance management segment, too, with its branded Financial Performance Management (FPM) offering--yoked, not surprisingly, to its spreadsheet-centric value proposition, as well.

If the all-in-one BI platform wave is a bona fide trend, then Actuate would probably be among its first casualties. You'd never know it to look at the reporting stalwart's recent record-breaking financial performance, however.

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About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor for Enterprise Systems. He can be reached at [email protected].