Microsoft will formally show off its first serious performance management software entry to the market on September 19, a move that will strengthen the IT giant’s presence in the business intelligence market.
The eagerly-anticipated PerformancePoint Server 2007 software helps companies to plan, monitor and analyze business performance using key metrics and indicators.
PPS 2007 isn’t 100% new code, but is largely based on Microsoft’s older Business Scorecard Manager software that it picked up from its acquisition of ProClarity a couple of years ago. The technology recently entered into its fourth and final community technology preview (CTP) release.
Microsoft said that PPS 2007 will act as a magnet for Microsoft’s channel partners, especially those already selling its SQL Server-based BI tools and Dynamics business applications suite. That’s because PPS 2007 is designed to work smoothly with both these sets of products.
Microsoft ultimately wants to use PPS 2007 to garner a bigger slice of BI, a pie it shares with other vendors like Business Objects, Cognos, and Oracle/Hyperion.
Microsoft’s BI revenue grew 28% to $480m last year according to market researcher IDC.
However not everyone is bullish on PPS 2007’s market prospects. Andy Honess, managing director of the UK at rival BI firm QlikTech, does not believe the software will live up to the hype surrounding the launch.
Honess, in particular, takes issue with PPS 2007’s reliance on what he calls outdated multidimensional (OLAP) cube technology for analysis and reporting.
That has become notorious for its lack of speed and inflexibility. Then again, this shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Launching old product as new, in an attempt to increase its dominance appears to be a traditional Microsoft growth strategy.
He added that companies were looking for more flexible on-the-fly analysis of different sets of data, which predictably is where QlikTech excels with its in-memory design.
Honess also argues that PPS 2007 is an incomplete offering and requires a software stack of SQL Server 2007, Office 2007 and SharePoint 2007 to get the most out of the software.
What companies need from BI is a product that does not require a stack. Smaller mid-sized enterprises [the sweet-spot for PPS 2007] in particular lack the time or resources to implement such a set-up.
PPS 2007 might not be most sophisticated or functionally rich performance management platform on the market. But the fact that it carries the Microsoft brand will garner significant attention, especially from those companies looking to tap into investments they’ve already made in Office and SQL Server technologies.
PPS is unlikely to trouble large enterprise performance management players like Oracle/Hyperion and SAP. But it could nick away some sales from lower-end Business Objects and Cognos accounts, whose traditional BI tools are still relatively expensive and complex to deploy. PPS 2007 seeks to address those issues head-on.
More significantly PPS 2007 also brings some order to Microsoft’s previous piecemeal BI strategy. For one it brings the recent acquisition of ProClarity into sharper focus. PPS 2007 provides a clean anchor for ProClarity’s analytic technology and in the future ProClarity as a brand will probably disappear. PPS 2007 also provides a home for the BI capabilities of Office and Microsoft’s older, but lightweight, Business Scorecard Manager offering.
Microsoft has so far downplayed the impact on BI specialists and BI partners despite recently declaring that it planned to compete more aggressively for its own SQL Server BI customers. Don’t be fooled. PPS 2007 looks set to be a very disruptive release. It will increase the pressure on BI-cum-performance management vendors like Oracle/Hyperion, Business Objects, and Cognos on price-point alone.