Editors' Update, Dec. 7, 2006 -- This article has been updated since original publication to correct several factual errors, as well as incomplete branding references. Microsoft regrets the errors.
REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 5, 2006 — Today Microsoft moved one step closer to its official entry into the performance management space by announcing the release of the first Community Technology Preview (CTP) of its new performance management application.
Slated for general availability in mid-2007, Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 is a highly integrated performance management application, driven by the SQL Server platform and familiar Microsoft Office front end, allowing corporations to monitor, analyze, plan and make critical business decisions based on reliable data from all aspects of the company. Partners, customers and end-users are encouraged to visit the Web site to download the application to begin building plans in a real-world environment and testing the overall power of the product for themselves.
To discuss the new performance management application, its value, goals and roadmap for development, PressPass spoke with Microsoft General Manager Bill Baker, also a Distinguished Engineer, to get the details.
PressPass: What is Microsoft’s vision for performance management, and for Office PerformancePoint Server 2007?
Baker: Taking sophisticated technology and democratizing it – making it available on desktops for the individual information worker – is really part of Microsoft’s DNA. It’s what we aim to do here as well, with business intelligence and performance management. We believe that enabling the individual information worker to contribute to improving business performance, on a daily basis and as part of the daily rhythm of their business, will have great benefit for companies, ultimately giving them a competitive edge in the marketplace. The product was built to improve operational and financial performance across all aspects of the business, across departments, and up and down the organization.
PressPass: How does Microsoft plan to 'democratize' performance management with Office PerformancePoint Server 2007?
Baker: Traditional inhibitors to the broad adoption of performance management have been high costs associated with implementations, complex tools and user interfaces that require costly and time-consuming training for employees, and confusion over disparate systems and tools for the various capabilities, including planning, budgeting, forecasting, analytics and scorecarding. Performance management tools and processes have also been siloed or stovepiped traditionally, meaning that they sit outside the day-to-day business processes of most employees. Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 was designed to address and wipe out these inhibitors, enabling performance management across the enterprise, not just for the CFO and financial analyst.
We plan to introduce Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 at an attractive per-user price point, pricing and licensing the performance management application for broad adoption. Probably the single most important differentiation from competitive offerings is that the complete capability set that includes scorecarding, analytics, planning, budgeting, forecasting, consolidation and financial reporting is delivered through Excel and other pervasive Microsoft Office products. These are the productivity tools that CFOs, financial analysts and information workers live in every single day. This limits or altogether eliminates the need for expensive training on complicated front-end business intelligence and performance management tools, and ensures that performance management is part of the rhythm of the business, not a process that lives outside it.
PressPass: What customer segment was Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 designed for?
Baker: This product was designed to be enterprise-grade and to compete at the high-end of the performance management market. Our Technology Adoption Program (TAP) that has been underway since April contains a number of Global 2000 companies, in addition to mid-market customers. While our objective for this product is to enable pervasive performance management across the enterprise, this is a product for the CFO and financial analyst as well, and we’re already securing strong feedback from this audience.
PressPass: Did you acquire ProClarity back in April to speed Microsoft’s entrance into the performance management space?
Baker: We acquired ProClarity for its technology and its people. In addition to incorporating the powerful analytics functionality into Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, we folded ProClarity’s more specialized sales force into our own sales channel model. We did this to strengthen our ability to bring our business intelligence solution and performance management applications to market, both of which require a strong understanding of companies’ strategy, business processes and senior management.
In terms of integrating the sales and marketing teams, Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager Server 2005 and Proclarity 6.2 are often integrated as part of a customer solution. We have always partnered well with Proclarity, so in some cases these guys are just now sharing offices with the people they were doing sales calls with before the acquisition. The field integration has been pretty natural.
PressPass: Why is Microsoft evolving its business intelligence solution to include performance management, and what business need does Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 fulfill for customers?
Baker: The more people you have in company using good data and good tools to make decisions, the better your company will perform. The ultimate goal of any Microsoft product is to enable our customers to achieve their full potential. This is another way we’re using our portfolio of technologies to give our customers a solution that provides real value.
If you look at the questions that business users have, there are basically five categories: What happened, what is happening, why, what will happen and what do I want to happen. Reporting is classically how we look at what happened. Dashboards and scorecards are how we look at what is happening. Analytics of various types are how we look at why. And then there’s planning software.
We think there is great value in bringing this all together and having a suite that goes across the entire spectrum, with a single integrated application. Microsoft has technologies that address these unique issues, and then we have a powerful, integrated application layer in the Office platform. When you add it the analytical capability we acquired with Proclarity last spring, you start to see that we have a solution in Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 that is unique, and it really fits with our vision of driving business intelligence deeper and farther into organizations.
PressPass: Why is Microsoft releasing a CTP rather than a beta?
Baker: The CTP is relatively new for Microsoft. It’s a little different from the beta concept in the sense that you push your bits out more frequently and earlier on to smaller audiences, and then later those audiences get bigger and more public. I think for us the CTP allows us to get a little bit closer with a core group of users before sharing the product more broadly. It improves our quality of feedback, and allows us to develop those relationships too. It also allows our important partner ecosystem to get a jump on the skill set and to begin thinking about how they will verticalize the offering, using their deep domain expertise to build applications on top of Office PerformancePoint Server 2007.
PressPass: What can we expect as the Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 CTP process continues over the coming months?
Baker: Our next CTP will be released early in 2007, sometime in the first quarter. That is when we will begin to introduce the rich analytic functionality afforded by ProClarity’s technology. After that, we will release either one or two more CTPs during the spring, depending on timing, but those will really be shakeout runs by that point.
In the longer term, our plans for releases beyond version 1 of Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 include building our offering out horizontally, into areas such as sales and operations planning, human workforce planning and sales and marketing planning. We will also continue to cultivate our important partner ecosystem to build out additional verticalized solutions.
CTP1 Now Available
Users can sign up to download Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 CTP (or visit the main page).
After following the directions on the home page and completing a quick survey, customers will gain access to the Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 CTP connect site. There they can download the product, documentation, samples, release notes and ReadmeFirst instructions.
Once customers access their Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 CTP account, they can review postings regarding how to set up newsgroups, submit feedback and report bugs. While all main content can be found on the homepage, customers will also want to review the far left navigation bar for access to feedback and bug forms, newsgroup information and downloads.
Customers participating in the CTP process are encouraged to contact the PerformancePoint Server 2007 CTP team members at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding the product, the CTP process, newsgroups and feedback functions.