Interview: SAP BusinessObjects’ Marge Breya Celebrates Progress and Anticipates Accelerated Growth

marge-breya_cSAP BusinessObjects Executive Vice President & GM Intelligence & Netweaver Marge Breya recently sat down with IT Market Strategy to discuss the first full year of life within SAP. That interview is excerpted here; Breya gives a flavor of the challenges and opportunities that faced the newly acquired company, and her enthusiasm about their success so far was palpable.

When you assumed leadership of the BusinessObjects Division after the SAP acquisition, what were your objectives and priorities?

The first objective was to realize the business plan to rationalize the merger – and it was aggressive. We had a shot at gaining market share in 2008. I personally felt I had the opportunity to take what I thought was the best product and marry it with one of the best sales forces in the world. The question was: how will we, with a relatively small team, leverage the power of SAP? How do you take a team and make them a part of a larger company without spoiling the reasons why the larger company bought you?

Were you primarily focused on share within the SAP base, or did you expect to also grow share outside?

At that time, the biggest opportunity was absolutely to penetrate the SAP base. Before BusinessObjects XI 3.0, BusinessObjects did not have a lot of SAP performance optimization – it wasn’t until we joined that we had a product that was so well optimized.

Did you set some targets for product rationalization and sales?

One of the most interesting, challenging conversations I had with Leo Apotheker was about rationalized, value-based selling. The standard approach for the SAP sales force was to go in with a corporate-wide value proposition, but BusinessObjects didn’t really have large packages. By the launch of the combined company, we had a package put together aimed at the query, reporting and analysis (QRA) market – core BI. This had a much bigger average selling price (ASP) than BusinessObjects had before, and a bigger value proposition. In combination with the SAP sales force, we hit the ball out of the park.

How far along do you feel you are in getting the SAP sales force mobilized?

We’ve come a long way – we made a huge first year step. This is one of the most successful acquisitions in software industry history in terms of the large deals, product adoption, and focus of the sales force. In year one, we had separate sales forces working at arm’s length and now as of Q109, we have combined the two sales teams, with a dual reporting arrangement – into Bill McDermott but also to John Schwarz.

If you compared feet on the street…?

The difference is massive, on the order of 10X. [IT Market Strategy believes that the numbers reflect an increase from approximately 650 sales persons to 6500.] When I joined BusinessObjects the revenue base was declining; in my first year we increased it, and in the year after the acquisition, it has been a massive increase. I felt when I joined that we were under-distributed. It was the biggest problem for all of the BI players. None of us had what I would call mature enterprise class sales forces. Then, in the span of one year, all the BI leaders in the industry – us, Cognos and Hyperion – went from a ten or fifteen year startup, into the “real show.”

We went from an industry solving one-off problems to one with greater ambition – business performance management becoming part of the BI charter, a more holistic view. Enterprise sales forces talk to different people, at a different level, with a different message.

Absolutely. It went from tool to analytical platform.  You have a full layer that can sit across all the applications and the data – that was an ambition that was previously not sought after.

Published by Merv Adrian

Independent information technology market analyst and consultant, 40 years of industry experience, covering software in and around the data management space.

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