Today, IBM announced the acquisition of privately-held Clarity Systems for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition bolsters IBM’s solution set for the CFO, and complements its recent acquisition of OpenPages, a governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) vendor. Clarity, based in Toronto, had approximately 390 employees and 600 customers at the time of this deal.

Clarity Systems is a Strong Performer in "The Forrester Wave™: Business Performance Solutions, Q4 2009", offering a very good planning, budgeting, and forecasting solution as part of its flagship product, Clarity 7, along with an improved financial consolidations component. During the past few years, Clarity developed a market-leading regulatory reporting solution, Clarity FSR, which supports the process of creating full SEC filings and also embeds technology for XBRL reporting. IBM Cognos is ranked as a Leader in the same comparative evalution.

The success of FSR alone during the past two years made the large BPS vendors, IBM, SAP, and Oracle, envious of Clarity’s success. Oracle made a competitive response early this year with the release of Oracle Hyperion Disclosure Management. It seemed to this observer that SAP would make the next move by doing a deal to acquire Clarity, but IBM beat them to the punch.

IBM itself has been hard at work for the past couple of years on its own solution portfolio for Finance, which includes financial consolidations (IBM Cognos Controller), planning (IBM Cognos TM1), as well as products for financial analytics, dimension management, and BI. The planning solution, in particular, has made the most progress with the migration of the proprietary enterprise planning solution architecture to OLAP-based TM1. IBM now has overlapping product sets between its planning and consolidation functions with those of Clarity. The Clarity 7 architecture is predominantly Microsoft-based for both the UI and data management and also supports Oracle’s Hyperion Essbase platform. The IBM planning and consolidations solutions will be the lead offerings, alongside FSR, according to IBM briefing materials related to the deal.