Performance Point Server 2007: Talking Intelligent about Business Intelligence

In IT, we often call Business Intelligence an oxymoron. It seems that the two words have nothing in common. If you deal with the kinds of decision-making we do daily you'd understand. Nevertheless, BI is a hot topic right now. It seems to be growing hotter thanks to Microsoft's entry into the market.

Now although it seems like a full BI solution came out of nowhere form Microsoft it really hasn't. The foray into these tools began in 2004 with the Biz project. Business Scorecard Manager 2005 added the ability to look at aggregated information across the organization. These scorecards allowed users a new dimension of looking at data. With the SQL Server backend information could be accumulated from several departments to form a "total picture" if you will.

PerformancePoint Server 2007 goes well beyond these capabilities. It proves to be a total BI solution. Giving users the ability to plan, monitor, perform analytics, and report on the information.

Using familiar technologies PerformancePoint Server utilizes Excel plug-ins and Web based interfaces, which lessens the user learning curve.

Of course, the first question your boss has is how much, second of course is do we need this?

It's hard to say if this investment into BI is worthwhile form a technology perspective anyway. To me I look at the $20,000+ price tag and I can think of ten better technologies to implement. This is not a technology driven purchase but a corporate one. Good news is the deployment is not difficult. Many times in our business, the decision to implement technologies for the "business" usually, go on without us until the day comes to order a server and install the thing. Then it belongs to IT exclusively.

However, it must be said that with the amount of information companies collect about clients these days. It can be advantageous to know how to plan and execute your strategy for growing and maintaining clients. I know when I was working as IT Director; our marketing people were crazy about collecting every bit of information possible about our clients.

For an accounting firm I wasn't even sure why we had a marketing department. Therefore, you know I really didn't see the need to know the clients favorite wine, what kind of music they liked, whether or not they vacationed in the Caribbean.

Just kidding, but it makes the point on the type of information we now have. A report in the NY Times in 2004 said Wal-Mart has a data collection super center to store about 460 Terabytes of information about their customers.  

Information is the gold of the 21 century; it holds it value long after you initially do business with someone. Moreover, for those who count on this information to keep a competitive edge the price tag is well worth it. I know with the 3 different disparate systems we used, PerformancePoint Server 2007 would have come in handy to pull everything together and give us a Birdseye view of all our data.

I have already done a few deployments, some in a lab for writing purposes and one in a testing environment. The setup and configuration was easy which is great for me considering I know nothing about financial metrics and analysis.

One thing is for sure Microsoft is making a serious play in the area. They have built in BI tool for SQL Server 2005 and in the upcoming SQL Server 2008. The Excel plug-in helps to get data into and out of PerformancePoint easily. And the recent acquisition of ProClarity desktop provides a best of breed desktop analytics tool.

Overall, the area of BI may be a topic of laughter for some of us in IT, but PerformancePoint Server is a serious BI tool. If you have a need for Performance Management and you've compared the price tag to other commercial products. Then you know that Microsoft is very progressive with this product on the retail end. Doubtless, the licensing programs will make it even more appealing.

If the fact that this is version 1.0 makes you nervous, fear not. Microsoft has had this product in CTP since early 2006, and Service Pack 1 has already been released. If that doesn't convince you then download a 180-day evaluation of PerformancePoint Server 2007 here.

With all the information we take in about our clients, is nice to have a tool to help us manage it all and one that makes our world, a Better Windows World.

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