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'Maestro' Aimed at Business Performance Management

In 2001, author Bob Woodward used the title "Maestro" for a book describing U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's handling of the U.S. economy. Microsoft is using the same term as the code-name for a software package to allow masterful coordination of an individual business through business performance management software.

Microsoft unveiled "Maestro" this week and released a private beta of the server-based business performance management scorecard application. A public beta is planned for the summer. Microsoft hasn't determined pricing or final availability.

The company describes Maestro as a dramatic enhancement of the Business Scorecard Accelerator it released last summer.

Maestro relies on some long-standing business intelligence and financial application concepts, such as scorecards and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The idea is to improve a business by identifying and measuring indicators of a business' success that underlie simpler measures such as revenues and profits. Part of the strength of the concept is to push the knowledge down to individual employees, who can prioritize tasks and measure their performance against the scorecards.

According to Gartner research figures from March cited by Microsoft, the corporate performance management market amounted to $520 million in new license revenues in 2003. Gartner predicts a compound annual growth rate of 9.9 percent with license revenues reaching more than $900 million by 2009.

Like many Microsoft applications, Maestro will not stand alone. Instead it is designed to build on other elements of the Microsoft software stack -- drawing on services and data from those products and adding value to previously installed Microsoft infrastructure.

Officially part of the Microsoft Office System, Maestro will sport tight integration with Microsoft Office 2003 editions and Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003. But Microsoft is encouraging corporate developers, independent software vendors, systems integrators and partners to leverage Visual Studio and SQL Server to get the maximum value out of Maestro.

Carefully thought out integration will be a must, as scorecard and KPI solutions carry a risk of becoming shelfware. Challenges include out-of-the-box models that don't apply well to individual businesses, lack of time or commitment for proper customization of the packages and failure to effectively integrate KPI/scorecard applications into daily workflows to make their use seamless for employees rather than time-consuming.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.