Posts tagged ‘PerformancePoint’

Impact of the PerformancePoint Server Changes

If you follow business intelligence news at all, then you probably saw the news from Microsoft last week that PerformancePoint is becoming a component of SharePoint. However, it won’t be all of PerformancePoint – the Plan portion will see one additional service pack (SP3), then development will cease. The Monitor and Analyze portions of the product will become part of the SharePoint Enterprise license.

Reaction has been mixed. Generally, many people see the advantage in including the Monitor and Analyze functionality in SharePoint, as it will open that functionality to a much broader audience. This lines up nicely with Microsoft’s “BI for the masses” vision that they have working toward for several years. It also lines up with the more recent marketing message, “People-ready BI”. Seeing that SharePoint is becoming the place that many users go to do their work, it makes sense to incorporate their BI tools in the same location. I think that offering PerformancePoint Services (the new name for the Monitor and Analyze functionality under SharePoint) as part of SharePoint will make it easier to include BI functionality in new applications and lower the barrier to adoption of this functionality in organizations of all sizes.

The negative reactions are primarily around two things: discontinuing Plan, and not having a full-client story (besides Excel). I understand the reactions around discontinuing Plan. Version 1 had some rough edges (OK, a lot of rough edges), but Microsoft has a history of quickly releasing subsequent versions with much better functionality, and usually having a very good product by version 3. Breaking this pattern caught a lot of people by surprise. Version 1, while lacking in a few key areas, was definitely usable. Some of Microsoft’s customers are using it in production, and even more partners had made significant investments in it. Fortunately, while Mariner had done some work with it, we had not invested heavily in it. We were more focused on the Monitor and Analyze portions of the product. In part, this was because we recognized that performance management is a specialized discipline, requiring some specific skill sets. Just because you can deliver successful solutions on Microsoft technology doesn’t necessarily mean that you can deliver successful performance management solutions. I think that was a point of confusion for many partners (the “one stop shop” approach is very popular in the partner community), and that lead to Microsoft not having as strong of a partner base to support the product as they had hoped. On the other hand, there were some really strong partners in the performance management space who did some great things with Plan, and I can certainly empathize with those that made big investments and are now disappointed by the change in direction.

Mauro Cardarelli, a SharePoint MVP, had an interesting post on his concerns that making PerformancePoint available as part of SharePoint raises the same concerns. Competent  delivery of SharePoint solutions doesn’t necessarily correlate to competent delivery of BI functionality, and successful delivery of BI solutions doesn’t mean that you can deliver good SharePoint solutions. Since this was one of the challenges for Plan, it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward. In the short term, I’d encourage companies to be sure that their vendors either have both sets of skills (and can demonstrate that they’ve used them in the same project), or look for best-of-breed partners who are willing to work together.

The full-client story is a concern. The current direction seems to be for Excel to become the full client for consuming Analysis Services data, and for SharePoint to become the thin client interface. I’m definitely in favor of SharePoint as the thin-client interface, but using Excel as the full client leaves a pretty big gap in the story. It used to be that you could recommend ProClarity desktop to fill that gap, but since ProClarity is in a support only mode now, that’s not a good option. In time, more of the functionality of ProClarity should surface in Excel and SharePoint, but that’s still some time off. And Excel, while improving as an Analysis Services client, is still not on par with a dedicated desktop client built to expose the full functionality of Analysis Services. Hopefully that will improve over the next couple of releases of Excel, but in the meantime it creates opportunities for third parties to fill the gap.

Overall, I think this move will promote broader adoption on the Monitor and Analyze functionality in Microsoft’s customer base, and will strengthen the value proposition for moving to SharePoint Enterprise licenses. It’s a good thing for Microsoft, and good for customers who have already invested in SharePoint. However, it remains to be seen what impact not having a planning component or a strong full client application in the BI stack will have.

Some other reactions from around the web:

Chris Web (he also has a set of links featuring other reactions)

Nigel Pendse

Cindi Howson

David Darden’s Blog

One of my colleagues, David Darden, has started blogging on He’s been working with the Microsoft BI stack for several years now, and has a lot of great knowledge to share. His first post is on using the PerformancePoint SDK to create scorecards. It’s a good read, and if you are interested in extending the built-in PerformancePoint functionality, I highly recommend taking a look.

2007 PASS Community Summit

At the first of this month, I received word that I will be presenting at the PASS Summit this year. They had a late push for more BI front-end presentations, and evidently they were desperate enough to accept not one, but two of mine. One will be a co-presentation with my co-worker, David Darden, on developing non-financial applications in PerformancePoint Plan. The other will be on delivering BI information through the ProClarity Dashboard Server product. It’s late notice, but I’m excited to be doing it.

Prepping for the presentations has taken up a lot of time, recently, as well as a tremendous amount of real work to do. Fortunately, I’m working on projects right now that are leveraging both technologies, so I can get some work done on both at the same time.

Between the presentations and work deadlines, it’s been tough to find much time to update my blog. I am working on a few topics for it, though, so keep watching.

If you are attending the PASS Summit, drop me an email. I’d looking forward to the chance to meet some of you in person.

PerformancePoint Plan and Time

I’ve recently gotten started on a project using Microsoft’s new PerformancePoint Server (PPS) Plan software. I’m actually writing this on a flight back from Seattle after meeting with the PPS team. It was a valuable trip, and I learned a lot about the product.

Perhaps more importantly, I learned about the best way to utilize it in our scenario, which is not a traditional financial scenario. Microsoft is supporting and encouraging its use in non-financial applications, but there are definitely some things that you have to plan ahead for.

One of the first things we encountered was in handling time. Plan creates the time dimension for you, based on some settings that you specify. You have the option to choose between a number of standard financial calendars, but our calendar definitely did not fall into any of the available options. We ended up creating an additional dimension to hold our time attributes, but there are still a number of open issues around coordinating this alternate time with the built-in financial calendar (which is required in every model). As we resolve some of these issues, I’ll post the resolutions.

Fortunately, from an overall standpoint it looks like PPS Plan will support our scenario very well. As we continue forward with the project, I’ll post some additional details.