Last week, Microsoft announced "free" scorecards and dashboards for all. Well, actually what the company announced is that organizations with Enterprise licenses to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 with Software Assurance can now install PerformancePoint Server 2007 for free.
The announcement appeared on the SharePoint team blog on MSDN. Pej Javaheri, Senior Product Manager for SharePoint (incorrectly capitalized as Sharepoint on his own blog signature :-) ) said in the announcement: "Microsoft’s vision for Business Intelligence has always been about pervasive access to information." He goes on to suggest that the announcement enables companies to move forward with PerformancePoint as a complete BI solution that includes powerful scorecarding and dashboarding capabilities.
Yet the announcement goes on to say that investment in PerformancePoint will cease following SP3, which is expected to be released in mid-2009. While the announcement promises continued investment in a "performance management platform and increased functionality through Excel, SharePoint and SQL Server to support broad-based performance management models and simulations," there are no details as to exactly what that means. So you are free to install a lame duck product in hopes that the next versions of SharePoint and friends will continue to meet the requirements for which you installed PerformancePoint.
C'mon Microsoft, throw us a bone with which to make a real decision! Will the functionality of PerformancePoint be fully provided in the 2010 iterations of SharePoint, Office, etc.? If so, which products will offer which features? If not, what can we expect? The update to the BI roadmap is for the scorecard, dashboard, and analytic functionality to be consolidated into SharePoint 2010 (my guess at the branding) and Excel, on top of the scalable platform of SQL Server. What about the planning module? Sounds like it's being dropped--something that Microsoft's competitors have jumped on.
Why did Microsoft do this? According to Microsoft, BI is a top spending priority for CIOs and other C-level executives, as it allows insight into key business data to drive decision making. But my experience is that money often does not actually get spent on BI, particularly in this economy, and particularly because of the internal cultural change and self-knowledge that must exist within an organization before BI can be successful. So I'm guessing that the high cost and challenges of adopting PerformancePoint has made it a less-than-stellar story for Microsoft. By rolling it in to SharePoint, there is suddenly a very sexy "superstar" reason for moving to SharePoint for organizations that have not yet done so. I suspect the sacrifice of the PerformancePoint lamb is an indication that BI will be the "big story" of SharePoint 2010. Doesn't it make sense to swell the wave of SharePoint 2010 adoption (along with SQL Server and Office 2010) by adding into SharePoint such an in-demand capability? Does to me! It will be more salient a capability to decision makers than enterprise-focused social networking (which I've got to think will also be a "big story" in vNext).
We're beginning to see cracks in the very tight curtain that Microsoft has draped around SharePoint and Office 2010. I have no doubt that SharePoint 2010 will have a big BI story to tell. My guess is that Microsoft will, as it tends to do, offer pretty amazing functionality that integrates well into the other components of its platform. Functionality that may not fully meet the levels of offerings by BI-specific competitors, but that will meet the needs of many organizations and will "raise the boats" of all players in the BI space. It's just too bad that I have to guess at this outcome--that Microsoft's announcements don't give us the real intelligence we need to make a business decision about our own BI strategies.
You can learn more about Microsoft's developing BI roadmap at the Microsoft Business Intelligence site.
San Diego a Go-Go
This weekend, I fly to San Diego to participate in the SharePoint Best Practices Conference, February 2-4. Hope you can join us, and if you do please stop by and say "hi!"
Until next week, all the best!
danh at intelliem dot (top level commercial domain)