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Microsoft unveils plans for performance planning software


Microsoft unveils plans for performance planning software

Microsoft has formally unveiled its plans to deliver a performance management product to the masses by the middle of next year.

Called Performancepoint Server 2007, the suite encapsulates existing Microsoft products with a new development – codenamed Biz# – to provide dashboards and scorecards, analytic applications, and planning, budgeting and forecasting to industries and companies of all sizes.

Components of the product are available today, and its planning, budgeting and forecasting capabilities will be available for beta testing in the fourth quarter of this year.

AMR Research estimates that companies worldwide spent nearly £13bn on performance management programs and £2bn on planning, budgeting and forecasting products in 2006.

In 2005, Microsoft made its intentions known: it had set its sights on a substantial part of the business intelligence market.

Starting with the launch of Business Scorecard Manager 2005 through to Microsoft SQL Server 2005, it bundled lots of business intelligence options for sale to a receptive audience.

Earlier this year, the company acquired Proclarity, an analytic application platform that capitalises on SQL Server, and alluded to a soon-to-be-delivered planning, budgeting and forecasting product (the Biz# development).

Couple these developments with the Office 2007 upgrade due early next year, with major enhancements to Sharepoint and Excel, and you have the pieces of a broad-based business intelligence and performance management strategy coming together nicely.

At the company’s TechEd conference in Boston in June, business intelligence was a prominent theme for its server and tools business. To move up from business intelligence tools to performance applications, it had to take a stand.

Building an application around one of the most common uses for Excel – planning, budgeting and forecasting – makes all the sense in the world. The Microsoft Dynamics products will also use it as its performance management product when available.

As Microsoft beats its drum in advance of the Office 2007 launch, it is in the company’s best interest to have high-value applications that will take advantage of the promised Office capabilities. IT directors prefer to know what is on the horizon well in advance of product availability, and there is sure to be interest in what Microsoft has to offer.

Businesses will have to temper their interest until the beta of the planning piece is available later this year, but the other major

parts – scorecards and analytic application platform – are available now.

Even though the new product will not be available in its entirety for a year, it is bound to affect rival products from enterprise application and best-of-breed providers. Timing works to the advantage of these firms now.

But the blueprint for Microsoft’s entry into this market looks interesting. As testers give feedback, it will be interesting to watch rival suppliers jockey for position in this competitive market over the next six to 12 months.

John Hagerty is a vice-president and research fellow at AMR Research


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