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Microsoft Shakes Up BI Market

Microsoft has sparked lots of chatter among business intelligence vendors. The software giant this week unveiled its technology roadmap for BI, and it looks like the upcoming products could present quite a challenge for competitors.
Microsoft has sparked lots of chatter among business intelligence vendors. The software giant this week unveiled its technology roadmap for BI, and it looks like the upcoming products could present quite a challenge for competitors.Soon after Microsoft released details on PerformancePoint Server 2007, I started receiving emails from BI vendors rushing to ride the company's coattails by announcing that their products would support Microsoft's technology. Vendors not so friendly to the software maker offered interviews to explain the weaknesses of Microsoft's offerings.

Fact is Microsoft has lots to offer. The question is how well will it execute on its plans.

In general, PerformancePoint Server will be the BI hub for Microsoft, drawing on analysis and reporting capabilities in SQL Server 2005 database and presenting information to a company's knowledge workers though Office 2007. The latter is Microsoft's ace in the hole.

More people in companies use Excel spreadsheets for analysis and reporting than any BI tool, so tapping into an interface that they are familiar with is a big advantage. Of course other BI vendors can leverage Office, but it certainly gives you a step up when you control the most widely used productivity suite in businesses today.

Besides Office, Microsoft also has the software needed to take BI beyond financial analysis, which is the focus of most vendors today. As part of its BI plans, Microsoft is integrating its Dynamics product line, which includes business management software for automating financial, customer relationship and supply-chain processes.

Other products that will become a part of Microsoft's total BI package include its portal and collaboration software SharePoint 2007, Business Scorecard Manager 2005 and the ProClarity Analytics Server.

But stitching all of this software together won't be easy. Phil Wilmington, chief executive of performance-management vendor OutlookSoft, pointed out in an email that Microsoft's products are in various phases of release, "which means some serious integration issues."

In addition, Microsoft hasn't proven that it has the expertise to build and deploy performance applications, Wilmington said. "When you are in a hot space, big companies are going to enter it. This only highlights the opportunity we have, and the importance of performance management to our customers."

Maybe so, but it's likely Wilmington and a lot of other CEOs will be burning the midnight oil more often to stay ahead.

Drop me an email to let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, more than half of the readers who responded to BI Pipeline's unscientific poll on service-oriented architectures said they were currently using or planning to adopt an SOA. Forty-five percent said they weren't running a SOA-based network.

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