Microsoft teams up with SAP


“Oracle in the crosshairs,” “SAP and Microsoft Gang Up on Oracle,” “Microsoft and SAP vs. Oracle,” read many recent headlines. Microsoft’s recent endorsement of the SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation application as its “preferred solution” for unified planning and consolidations on its platform has been interpreted by the IT press as a clear shot at Oracle and its competing application, Hyperion. The Wall Street Journal summed up Microsoft’s vote of confidence in the product with the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Recently appointed executive vice president of Business User sales Sanjay Poonen points out that the media love to overdramatize rivalries to garner more eyeballs. True, SAP stands to gain against its rival with Microsoft’s statement, a testament to the planning and consolidation application’s best-of-breed functionality and performance, Sanjay says. “But what has been overshadowed by the media’s focus on posturing is the fact that this is all about what’s good for the customer. Customers can expect the best user-experience, functional excellence, better performance, and lower TCO from both SAP and Microsoft with this collaboration,” he says. “It is really about bringing value to our customers.”

Part of SAP’s enterprise performance management (EPM) portfolio within the Business User space, SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation supports business users in the office of the CFO as a single solution for planning, budgeting, forecasting, and financial consolidations. The application also allows users to fulfill increasingly strict global regulations and comprehensive legal consolidation requirements.

Proven already in cooperative solutions such as Duet and Duet Enterprise, the Microsoft/SAP relationship will be extended in both development and go to market. A distributed development team at SAP will have early access to new features in applications such as Microsoft Office and Microsoft Sharepoint, as well as to enhancements in Microsoft’s database portfolio. This collaboration, Poonen says, will ensure that the planning and consolidation application’s touch points with Microsoft software will extract the most value possible for customers with regards to functionality and performance.

Sanjay Poonen by SAP BusinessObjects
Sanjay Poonen, EVP Business User Sales, SAP (photo: SAP)

According to Tom Casey, general manager of SQL Server Business Intelligence for Microsoft, the application “takes advantage of the latest available versions of Microsoft Office 2007, including integration with Microsoft Office Excel 2007 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008,” says Casey, “enabling customers to use the familiar tools they work with every day while benefiting from the features of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database and SQL Server Analysis Services.”

For example, as Stephanie Buscemi, vice president for EPM marketing at SAP, notes, Microsoft Excel has traditionally been the preferred tool for budgeting for business users within the Office of the CFO.  SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation’s seamless interplay with Excel has helped make it a favorite within this community. It is in both companies’ interest to maintain this level of interoperability to provide users with the functionality and performance they require.

Similarly, the two companies are working together in bringing the relevant solutions to market. Representatives from both companies will share the stage during EPM road shows in Europe in 2010 and, internally, will work together to enable their respective field organizations to bolster and secure customer care.

Stephanie Buscemi, vice president for EPM marketing at SAP (photo: SAP)
Stephanie Buscemi, Vice President EPM Marketing at SAP (photo: SAP)

So what’s in it for Microsoft, exactly?

Endorsing SAP’s EPM solution helps Microsoft sell more SQL-Server licenses, more Windows Server licenses, and cements more Microsoft Office users, Poonen says. Given that SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation is the only EPM solution so optimized for the Microsoft stack.

Visionary product

Microsoft isn’t the only one touting SAP’s EPM applications. Recently, Gartner Magic Quadrant ranked SAP’s planning and consolidation application as the “most visionary” – the most innovative and best product in the market. Forrester, too, rated the solution highest among its peers in functionality, and so do customers.

Unites States’ CKE Restaurants, for example, operating several well-known chains like Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, has selected SAP BPC over a number of other vendors, including Oracle/Hyperion. “We began implementation of the SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation application after being impressed by its ease of use, business process flows that drive process consistency, flawless demos, and strong references,” says Tom Lindblom, chief technology officer of CKE Restaurants. “Prior to that, we were using large Excel spreadsheets against a third-party back end to complete annual budgets and monthly forecasts. It was a lengthy and time-consuming process that required shuttling data into and out of PeopleSoft. The new SAP solution will allow us to quickly model new business scenarios while minimizing risk, giving us a shorter route to compliance.”

Today, businesses like CKE Restaurants are expected to meet financial planning deadlines while completing consolidated financial reports in a short period of time. In addition, statutory reporting requirements such as International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) add to the complexity of closing the books, and CFOs are eyeing solutions that can support them in their compliance efforts. SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation ships with an IFRS starter kit that allows companies to do just this. Furthermore, as Poonen explains, the flexibility of the application allows users to perform tighter cycles, not limited to the traditional quarterly routine.

By coordinating the interplay of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation among Microsoft software, customers can look forward not only to new functions and capabilities, but also experience these features at an optimized level of performance in an environment very familiar to them, translating to little time and effort invested in training.