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Microsoft Clarifies 'BI' Roadmap

Microsoft clarified the roadmap for its business intelligence products Tuesday, and also announced that it is working on a new business intelligence tool aimed at performance management.

Scheduled to hit beta next fall for delivery in mid-2007, Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 will provide what the company calls "a complete performance management application including business scorecarding, analytics and planning...including budgeting and forecasting."

The company is intending PerformancePoint to become a key monitoring point for businesses, where all of their corporate information -- from unstructured Word documents and PowerPoint presentations to Excel spreadsheets, SQL data, business metrics and other information -- can be examined and analyzed within a common context or dashboard.

Further, Microsoft officials also explained somewhat how the company's recent acquisition of ProClarity fits into the PerformancePoint plan as well as how its Dynamics brand of business intelligence tools relate to that vision.

Finally, PerformancePoint Server 2007 will be optimized to work with Longhorn Server and the 2007 Office system, including Office SharePoint 2007, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman.

PerformancePoint Server 2007 aims to provide a model-driven tool aimed at simplifying creation of corporate models for scorecards, analytics and plans -- and those will also be able to be used for department level performance management, statements on Microsoft's Web site say.

PerformancePoint will provide synchronized models both up and down an organization as well as across departments. The idea is to enable users to get a more consistent view of organizational performance and what role they play in that performance.

With it, Microsoft plans to provide a single application for scorecarding, analytics and planning with models that can be built using consistently applied business rules and assumptions then delivered to line managers for entering their data using Office Excel, according to Microsoft statements.

That will include an upgraded version of Microsoft's existing scorecarding tool.

"There will be a new upgraded version of Business Scorecard Manager in PerformancePoint [that] will integrate with all the other capabilities of Performance Point," Lewis Levin, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office Business Applications, said in a prepared statement.

The package is designed to let business users define, implement and manage the business logic that controls how performance management is measured and applied to the business, the statements say. For instance, users will be able to define their own key performance indicators or KPIs. Business rules will be centrally managed and fully auditable for tracking changes to business rules or data.

From an architectural viewpoint, SQL Server will provide the data processing, management and control infrastructure for PerformancePoint. Office and SharePoint will provide a development platform, including workflow management and collaboration support.

"We're enhancing ProClarity's advanced analytic and visualization technologies, and we'll be incorporating those into PerformancePoint...and, in the meantime, we'll continue to sell and support existing ProClarity solutions, and customers under maintenance will be able to access the same functionality in PerformancePoint Server," Levin said.

Microsoft's Dynamics products such as ERP and CRM packages will hook in as well, he added.

The Microsoft Dynamics roadmap includes plans to take advantage of and integrate with PerformancePoint by tailoring it for the specific needs of Microsoft Dynamics customers, including specific efforts to ensure that the functionality and capabilities found in present Microsoft Dynamics BI solutions are integrated with and available as part of PerformancePoint, according to the company's statements.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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