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PerformancePoint At Last: Q&A With Microsoft's Alex Payne and Michael Smith

After four years in development and more than a year in beta testing, Microsoft PerformancePoint is finally shipping. Intelligent Enterprise discusses what the platform delivers and what critics are saying with two key executives who helped guide development, packaging and pricing.

In one of the most high-profile enterprise software product launches this year, Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 was finally released to manufacturing on September 20. To hear more about what the platform delivers and get Microsoft's take on what critics and competitors are saying, Intelligent Enterprise sat down last week with Alex Payne, Director, Office Business Applications, and Michael Smith, Director of Marketing, Office Business Applications. Is this version 1.0 product ready for your enterprise? Two executives who helped guide development, packaging and pricing make the case for PerformancePoint.

Alex Payne

Michael Smith

PerformancePoint was previewed extensively at Microsoft's Business Intelligence Conference in May. Where there any notable revisions or upgrades leading up to final release?

Alex Payne (AP): We've had more than 10,000 participants in our community technology preview (CTP), which is what we call our beta program. That's very broad participation, and for the most part I'd say we've been responding to CTP feedback and working on fit, finish and performance rather than adding net-new functionality.

Can you recap the highlights of what PerformancePoint delivers?

AP: The three big areas are monitoring, analysis and planning. From the planning side, we're delivering planning, budgeting, forecasting and consolidation as well as management reporting including statutory- and GAAP-type reporting. On the analysis side, PerformancePoint delivers Web-based analytic functionality on top of the same models, and that's where a lot of the technology that came over from the ProClarity acquisition shines through. On the monitoring side there's scorecarding, dashboarding and reporting.

Some analysts say that as a version 1.0 product, PerformancePoint has a way to go in terms of supporting content. What does Microsoft provide in terms of best-practices guidelines, business process frameworks and so on?

Michael Smith (MS): We've done a lot with built-in business rules. We have rules for common things that people need to do like currency conversions. In financial consolidation we have rules for how you consolidate multiple general ledger types and partial ownerships. We also have business rules for approvals, workflow cycles and escalations that will make these applications a lot more functional for end users.

How does that compare with what veteran performance management vendors offer, particularly competitors such as Cognos as well as Oracle and Business Objects with their recent Hyperion and Cartesis acquisitions?

MS: When you look at core processes such as consolidation, we've provided quite a bit of functionality — certainly enough to handle the majority of customer needs. There will always be high-end boutiques. Cartesis, for example, really excelled in some of the European consolidation rules and accounting support, but we're going to be quite competitive out of the box, even in version 1.0.

AP: I'd point out that we're the first company to ship an integrated planning, monitoring and analytics solution. There have been a lot of things happening in the market through acquisitions in recent months, but the integration [among those vendors] ends at the price sheet. On a pure, feature-to-feature comparison on the planning side, I think we're on par [with the competition], but when you go beyond that, the market expects an integrated application, and that's what we're delivering.

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