SAP is set to buy performance management software company OutlookSoft

Over the last 18 to 24 months, SAP has made a number of moves designed to put together a complete suite of software for CFOs, starting with the shipping of its mySAP ERP 2005 enterprise resource planning software, which includes financial applications. A year ago, SAP bought compliance software vendor Virsa Systems and established a governance, risk and compliance management business unit. Then in February, SAP acquired analytics software company Pilot Software. According to Sanjay Poonen, senior vice president and general manager of analytics at SAP, the idea is to combine all these products into an integrated suite for CFOs.

SAP's not alone in seeing CFOs as a key market for its software, one where there's been a decided lack of integration between different products. This has meant customers have had to engage in a lot of work trying to tie the disparate offerings together themselves.

Earlier this year, Oracle acquired business intelligence vendor Hyperion Hyperion for US$3.3 billion, while BI vendor Business Objects snapped up Cartesis for around $300 million.

In contrast to its main applications rival Oracle, SAP has steered clear of large-scale, mult-billion dollar acquisitions, opting instead to buy up smaller companies.

SAP and OutlookSoft did not have a prior formal relationship, but 150 of OutlookSoft's 700-strong customer base also use SAP's software, according to Phil Wilmington, president and CEO of OutlookSoft. His company has been growing at a good clip since its founding in 1999, around 25 percent annually, and wasn't looking to be acquired, he said. Instead, OutlookSoft had been considering going public. However, when SAP approached the vendor several months ago, OutlookSoft saw a way to gain more visibility in the market for its software, Wilmington added.

OutlookSoft has had a strong relationship with Microsoft, with many of its users running the corporate performance management software alongside Microsoft's SQL Server database and its Analysis Services. Going forward, SAP's NetWeaver middleware will become OutlookSoft's "platform of choice," Wilmington said.

At the same time, Poonen saw a role for OutlookSoft in SAP's relationship with Microsoft. The two companies have jointly developed the Duet software that integrates Microsoft's desktop Office suite with SAP's back-end mySAP enterprise applications.

Poonen suggested that OutlookSoft could become one of the Duet scenarios. "Scenarios" is the term Microsoft and SAP use to describe additional integration capabilities focused on particular business areas such as performance management. Like other users, CFOs are keen to be able to access more of the applications they use through the Microsoft Office suite they're familiar with like the vendor's Excel spreadsheet, Poonen said.