REDMOND, Wash, Sept. 19, 2007 – From the corner office to the shop floor, employees, managers and executives try to harness and share business knowledge so they can make better decisions. Companies spend a large portion of their technology budgets on analytic and performance management applications that are meant to facilitate such sharing and harnessing of knowledge, only to be frustrated by out-of-date information, inflexible and hard to use technologies, or people who don’t use the technology.
Microsoft’s Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 is an innovative solution designed to help alleviate these frustrations and make it easy for individuals companywide to develop plans and budgets, monitor the business via scorecards and dashboards, and analyze performance with analytics.
Chris Caren, General Manager, Microsoft Office Business Applications Division
PressPass recently spoke with Chris Caren, general manager of Microsoft’s Office Business Applications division, to discuss how Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 can help businesses large and small – and their employees – use Microsoft Business Intelligence broadly to better manage their business.
PressPass: What is Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007?
Caren: Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 is a performance management application that customers can use to develop strategies, set plans and goals expressed as metrics and key performance indicators, cascade them across the organization to groups and individuals, and enable people to track business results day in and day out, letting them understand and analyze whether and why their business plans are off course or above target.
The ease of use of the application enables very broad usage – our target is to reach 5-10 times the number of people of a traditional performance management application. The flexibility of PerformancePoint Server 2007 allows it to span functions and business units – enabling sales, finance and operations to operate in their own way, but always be on the same page.
Unlike traditional business intelligence offerings, which tend to focus on historical information, Office Performance Point Server 2007 is much more about helping manage the business into the future – that is, taking a forward view by setting goals that look out a quarter, a year, or several years – then helping people play a role in developing plans and contribute to business results.
PressPass: What is Microsoft’s business intelligence strategy and what is the role of Office PerformancePoint Server 2007?
Caren: Surveys that analyst firms have done for the last two years indicate that business intelligence remains the top priority for CIOs. Yet despite its importance, and the fact that business intelligence as a technology has been around for more than 10 years, most companies still use it on a very limited or departmental basis. Typically, only 10-20 percent of information workers use the business intelligence technologies available to them.
A core part of Microsoft’s strategy is overcoming the hurdles that have limited the usage and deployment of business intelligence to many more individuals that are involved in the performance of a business, namely through delivering much greater ease-of-use and a lower cost alternative – cost to license, deploy and manage the solution. Our goal is to reach every information worker and add value to every decision – we want giving business intelligence to everyone in an organization to be a “no-brainer.”
To help overcome the hurdles associated with ease of use, we have built business intelligence capabilities into the productivity tools that people already use – namely, Microsoft Office applications such as Microsoft Office Excel and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server.
Excel enables information access and analysis that is both easy and flexible. SharePoint Server lets people share Excel data, and collaborate in their analysis and decision-making. Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 brings an organizational context to business intelligence – enabling companies to articulate plans, strategies and goals, to assign accountabilities to people, and then to help manage day-to-day results against those goals. Lastly, because Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 runs on the SQL Server business intelligence platform, customers are able to bring together all of their information, to make it clean and trusted, and give everyone the same complete view of the business.
PressPass: How are customers responding to Office PerformancePoint Server 2007?
Caren: Customer feedback has been incredibly supportive of our work to build business intelligence capabilities directly into Microsoft Office and, most notably, betting on Excel. They see that as a strategy that will increase the odds of business intelligence becoming pervasive inside of their organizations. Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 also has tremendous traction with customers, even before being released into market. One proof point of that is our community technology preview, which has over 10,000 customers involved today, is probably larger than the install base of most traditional performance management vendors. That indicates to me that there is a strong level of market anticipation and energy behind Office PerformancePoint Server 2007.
There’s also been a huge evolution in how customers want to think about business intelligence. They are showing an eagerness to move away from the traditional methods of sharing information, like sending reports out via e-mail that capture what transpired the previous quarter or reporting period. Instead, they want a metric-centric view via a Web-based scorecard or dashboard that focuses more on what’s happening now, and even more importantly, what likely will happen next week or next month.
I think the ability for Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 to provide that forward-looking, metric or dashboard-centric view is helping to fuel customer interest in deploying the product, not only in finance departments, but also in sales and operations – essentially to anyone that manages a staff or budget or revenue.
PressPass: What other products must customers deploy to take full advantage of the features offered by Office PerformancePoint Server 2007?
Caren: To use Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, customers need to deploy SQL Server 2005, Microsoft Excel 2003 or 2007, and Windows SharePoint Services, which is included with a Windows Server license.
It’s worth noting that Microsoft Excel is in use by 500 million information workers today, so Excel is already there for almost any customer you can think of. Similarly, the vast majority of our customers are already using SQL Server and Windows Server technologies, so the prerequisite products for using Office Performance Point Server 2007 are already being used in many cases.
Earlier, I mentioned that part of our strategy is to minimize the cost of owning and managing these technologies. A great example is the cost comparison between the complete Microsoft Business Intelligence offering of Office, SQL Server, Office Performance Point Server 2007 and SharePoint Server, as compared to the cost of a business intelligence solution offered by a pure-play or platform competitor. The Microsoft Business Intelligence solution is available at a fraction of the cost of competing solutions.
PressPass: Who are you targeting with Office PerformancePoint Server 2007? Will this be a midmarket product, or is it ready for the enterprise customer?
Caren: We’re targeting both the enterprise and mid-market segments, but the vast majority of our sales and partner resources are focused on enterprise customers. Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 is designed with the enterprise in mind: It contains the functional needs and scalability requirements of large enterprises, such as multi-currency, multi-language and multi-site capabilities. To help prove that point, Microsoft’s own finance department has been using an early version of Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 for almost two years to manage the vast majority of the company’s costs and revenue forecasting and budgeting activities.
Customer participation in our community technology preview also proves this point. We have a very high number of large, multi-national organizations that we’re working with as part of the Community Technology Preview (CTP) program. Having said all this, Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 also completes a low cost, quick-to-deploy business intelligence solution that is compatible for mid-sized companies who have been waiting for an affordable and easy-to-use performance management solution.
PressPass: What’s the partner value for Office PerformancePoint Server 2007? Is there a huge customer demand in the marketplace for business intelligence solutions?
Caren: We see two major opportunities for partners around Office PerformancePoint Server 2007. The first is to help our customers deploy the product successfully. In addition to the technical aspects of deploying the product, there is also a level of business process change and re-engineering that can come with performance management initiatives. Companies need to think about the most efficient way to manage a business with this technology, and often Microsoft partners can help here as well.
We also see a sizable opportunity for partners to extend Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 to address needs specific to a particular industry or sub-industry. There’s an enormous opportunity in sectors like financial services, retail, manufacturing and public sector for very targeted applications built on Office PerformancePoint Server 2007. Partners are in a terrific position to build in more content, more templates, more models and more pre-packaged workflows to address the needs specific of a particular industry or a specific customer’s needs.
PressPass: What are some of the clear benefits Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 provides customers over other solutions in the market?
Caren: The short answer is PerformancePoint Server 2007 will help our customers manage their businesses more effectively. Strategies and plans can be developed in a much more collaborative way, and can be dynamically modified as business conditions change. The application’s ease of use will enable many more people to benefit from being better aligned to strategy, and being able to track and understand their piece of the business in real time. Finally, the intuitive analytics capabilities in PerformancePoint Server 2007 will help people to better understand their business – customers, operations, financials, and more. This means not just what is happening, but why, which makes people more effective in their jobs and better able to play their part in a company reaching its goals.