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Microsoft to bulk up Office business intelligence

Office PerformancePoint Server, due in a year, adds applications for corporate planning and scorecards to Office.

Microsoft will offer analysis and planning applications as an add-on to its Office suite, a move meant to steer corporate customers away from specialized business-intelligence providers.

The Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, due mid-2007, will provide a set of programs geared at helping knowledge workers to make more informed decisions.

The package, formerly code-named "Biz Sharp," will include a server and tools for analyzing data, creating "scorecards" for measuring corporate health, and planning applications.

Lewis Levin
Lewis Levin
Microsoft Office
Business Applications

End users will access them from Excel, SharePoint portal, or Outlook, said Lewis Levin, corporate vice president for Office Business Applications.

"Our vision is that business intelligence should apply to nearly everyone," said Levin, including most people who have "discretion over how they spend their time."

Office PerformancePoint Server is the latest addition to Microsoft's expanding business intelligence strategy.

Business intelligence tools, which generate regular reports or allow people to analyze data sources, are typically standalone products supplied by specialized providers.

Microsoft plans to amend its Office and database product lines with business intelligence and seek to displace existing business intelligence providers, most of which are Microsoft partners.

"It does create some tension in marketplace for other business intelligence vendors who have been trying to be horizontal broad-reach companies," said Levin.

"I think they are going to look at this with some concern because we are completing our overall investment in BI," he said.

On the other hand, Levin noted that existing vendors can create more specialized products on top of Microsoft's infrastructure, such as applications for vertical industries.

Planning ahead
Microsoft has already said that with Office 2007, due early next year, it will offer tools for generating reports or analyzing data from Excel.

Office PerformancePoint Server is specifically designed for so-called performance management applications, which covers a broader range of capabilities.

Office PerformancePoint Server will have tools for data analysis, corporate scorecards, and planning applications, Levin said. For example, a finanical controller could create a forecast for spending on marketing in the coming year and measure progress periodically.

AMR Research estimates that spending for enterprise performance management topped $22 billion, including services, in 2005.

Office PerformancePoint Server will include the business intelligence software from ProClarity, a company which Microsoft acquired in April. The ProClarity tools, as well as an existing Microsoft program for scorecards, will continue to be sold separately, Levin said.

Existing business-intelligence vendors, including Hyperion, Cognos, SAS and BusinessObjects, are also developing tools for scorecards and, in some cases, financial planning.

In addition to specialized business intelligence companies, Microsoft faces competition in business intelligence from IBM, SAP and Oracle.

Microsoft's Dynamics ERP financial applications will also use the PerformancePoint Server in its financial applications suite.