Leaning on a Pillar of strength

Hyperion Solutions, the budgeting application specialist, has launched Pillar 4, its first major release since the company’s September merger with Arbor Software.

Hyperion Pillar 4, its flagship budgeting and financial planning application, features new ‘what if’ forecasting facilities, including a sales module, and the ability to automate budgets and reports. It also contains a pattern recognition facility, allowing those companies in seasonal industries, such as retail and consumer packaged goods, to predict market variations.

The packaged application is based on underlying technology from a TM1 file-based system. Users can transfer data to Arbor’s Essbase OLAP engine if they require more analysis functions.

The marriage between Hyperion and Arbor in September shook up the booming analytic application market, which collects and analyses data from enterprise resource planning systems and data warehouses. With 4,000 combined customers worldwide, and a market capitalisation of $1.3bn (#800m), Hyperion Solutions now claims to be the market leader, ahead of Oracle.

John Watton, Oracle’s decision support solutions marketing manager, takes issue with this claim, however. ‘It’s not as simple as adding the revenues of the two companies together,’ he argues. ‘No one has yet analysed the market for analytic applications.’

Analysts have predicted that the analytic applications market will be worth around $6.3bn (#3.8bn) by 2001.

Tony Speakman, UK marketing director of Hyperion Solutions, says the latest version of Pillar is intended to simplify the budget complexities of multinational firms, which have to consolidate the budgets from international subsidiaries.

‘The budgeting cycle of large companies can take up to 90 days. Budgeting is a misunderstood process,’ says Speakman. ‘We want finance departments to get away from the nightmare of drawing together hundreds and hundreds of spreadsheets.’

He adds that sales forecasting will bring financial analysis tools to sales and marketing teams, away from the traditional domain of the finance department.

Speakman insists the merger with Arbor has gone smoothly, but admits that the Californian-based company still lacks a strong European presence.

‘It is only about five years old, but it is well established in the US. Software companies typically start in the US and move out later into Europe.’

Industry sources question Speakman’s picture of a glitch-free takeover, claiming there has been a lot of infighting between Arbor and Hyperion. ‘You’re not going to end up with the same number of people from before the merger,’ said one.

Not so, according to Speakman. ‘There have not been any lay-offs as a result of the merger, and we are actively recruiting technical consultants and sales people,’ he says.

Unlike its rival Comshare, which has announced its intention to move downmarket by targeting UK medium-sized companies, Hyperion sees its natural market as a blue-chip multinational with a complex web of subsidiaries. ‘Pillar is a sophisticated tool to meet the requirements of complex companies,’ says Speakman.

‘If we go after SMEs we could have them saying they don’t have the money for it, and that Pillar 4 is a sledgehammer to crack a nut.’

John Message, principal associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers, who specialises in IT and performance management, says Pillar is a high-quality product but its underlying technology is proprietary and it does not provide enough integration between the finance and budgeting systems. ‘If you’re looking to the future of analytic software, it’s in integration between the finance and budgeting systems. If they’re are different numbers in different databases, it’s difficult to check that the numbers are right.’

He added that the market for analytic applications would continue to grow next year with ERP giants such as SAP releasing their own software.

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