Microsoft is integrating business intelligence into the forthcoming Office 12 productivity suite in a bid to make business intelligence "more mainstream" and available on every desktop.
Analysts said the product would be suitable for most small and medium-sized enterprises but was unlikely to meet the needs of larger firms.
Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005 is a server-based scorecarding application. It extends the SQL Server platform so that employees throughout an organisation can track key performance indicators using personalised scorecards.
Business Scorecard Manager will compete with products from business intelligence specialists such as Business Objects and Cognos.
Lewis Levin, corporate vice-president of Microsoft's Office business applications group, said, "With this new product and the new Office features, Microsoft will make business intelligence tools accessible to more people and more mainstream within organisations."
Microsoft said business intelligence functions would be integrated into Excel and Sharepoint in Office 12. The new version of Excel will let users connect directly to enterprise data, making a persistent connection between their Excel spreadsheet and the data source.
Butler Group research analyst Richard Edwards said, "Organisations will either adopt a strategic stance on business intelligence, in which case they will look at suppliers such as Business Objects, SAS, Hyperion, and Cognos. For the rest, for whom business intelligence is less understood but who know they should have a visual view of their data, what Microsoft is doing is an ideal place to start and is moving towards having pervasive business intelligence.
"Organisations must make business intelligence available to more than business managers. There is no reason why people in packing should not have a view of the business."
Server-side Excel capabilities will also be introduced to allow users to view spreadsheets on the server via a web browser, or to download them to desktops.
Sharepoint will become a portal for all the business intelligence content and end-user capabilities in SQL Server reporting services and Office 12. It will allow users to build personalised dashboards, bringing together the data they need from several sources.