As the dust settles from the business performance management (BPM) vendor mergers of the past year, a few things are becoming clear. First and foremost: there are more and better BPM choices available now than at any other time. This is particularly true at the high end. Choosing the right solution, on the other hand, has become more difficult than ever.

Let’s take a look at the current playing field. The midmarket is fairly well served by vendors such as Adaptive Planning, Centage, KCI, PROPHIX and Satori Group. There has been little new activity in this area other than Cognos’ acquisition of Applix and Business Objects’ recent announcement of a performance management offering for the midmarket (formerly acquired SRC product). In the enterprise market, however, there have been dramatic changes. The exceptions are Clarity Systems and SAS, two growing vendors that remain as they were - successful standalone performance management vendors. Longview was acquired by Exact Software of the Netherlands, but will continue to operate as Longview in North America. However, all around Clarity, Longview and SAS you will find a breed of newly remade competitors. Most of these competitors can be classified as giants either in terms of revenues or number of customers or both. This is where the real battle for market-share dominance will play out over the next several years.

In the beginning of the full-suite BPM age, there was Hyperion and Cognos. If you were a sizeable organization with complex performance needs, those two vendors were often at the top of your list. In recent years, Business Objects (with the addition of SRC) and SAS (with focused marketing around BPM) were added to the list. Now, in 2008, all of those vendors still exist in even more compelling forms, and there have been new additions. A little handicapping might be useful, so here we go, in alphabetical order.

IBM is the new home of Cognos and Applix and, as such, is a new entrant into the BPM hall of giants. Of all the mergers of the past year, this one will probably end up being the least disruptive. There is little product overlap and minimal integration work required. IBM has a service force that already understands performance management fairly well. What Cognos and Applix gain is a much bigger brand and deeper pockets behind them.

Infor, the combination of a sizeable transactional vendor with Geac/Extensity for BPM applications and Systems Union for business intelligence (BI), is probably the oldest of the “new” BPM giants, created in 2006. They may not be as well known in the U.S. as some of the others on this list, but they do have more than 70,000 customers worldwide and are a force to be reckoned with. If they did nothing but sell BPM to their existing customers, they could still command a sizeable BPM market share.

Microsoft, a giant by any definition, jumped into performance management with both feet this year. Long a supplier of BI tools to several of the BPM application vendors, Microsoft rolled out its own solutions this past year under the PerformancePoint brand. Adding in acquisitions of ProClarity and Stratature and the folding in of FRx, they have the makings of a very strong offering. Their competitive pricing will also start to turn heads as their BPM solution gains acceptance in the marketplace.

Oracle had been offering its own performance solutions for many years, with limited success. Now with Hyperion under their wing, they have for the first time become a truly viable BPM vendor. For Oracle customers, evaluating Hyperion as their BPM solution should be standard operating procedure. Hyperion of course was very successful on its own, but the question today is, will they still be able to attract non-Oracle shops as Hyperion customers when they are now part of Oracle?

SAP had also been a provider of its own performance solutions, but without the success they were looking for. They started small on their path to becoming a BPM powerhouse by picking up Pilot Software, which they have now repackaged as their Strategy Management module. That was soon followed by the acquisition of OutlookSoft, which SAP is using as it Budgeting, Planning and Consolidation offering. The last piece to fall into place was Business Objects, adding world-class BI to the mix. They will also have some of the same challenges as Oracle in being able to attract noncustomers to their BPM offerings.

All of these vendors offer a fairly complete suite of core BPM functionality, robust BI and some components of BPM 2.0, such as predictive capabilities, operational analytics and profitability analysis. Most also offer transactional systems that will eventually be integrated. So, who will be the BPM leader? It’s too soon to tell. Will customers give preference to their current enterprise resource planning (ERP) or BI vendor when looking for performance management solutions? Will they, in some cases, settle for less of a fit with their requirements for the ease of going with their current vendor and the hoped-for data integration down the road? Conversely, will customers purchase BPM from an ERP/BI vendor they didn’t choose for ERP/BI? Or, will they go with an independent vendor that doesn’t also supply transactional or BI systems but works well with most systems?

Along with more choices come more decisions to be made and more due diligence to be done, particularly of these newly merged vendors. Who will come out on top in the vendor world is not yet known. It is clear, though, that no matter how things ultimately turn out, the BPM customers are the true winners.

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