On Sunday, Microsoft revealed that it would add its business intelligence (BI) technologies into the next version of Microsoft Office, currently known as Office 12 and due in late 2006. Additionally, the company will be releasing a new business intelligence server product, called Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005 and codenamed Maestro, next month.
"One way to increase the impact that people can have in an organization is to give them access to the information they need," says Microsoft president Jeff Raikes, who oversees the Microsoft Business Division. "Until now, BI software has been too complex, costly and disconnected from the software tools people use every day to do their jobs. But the investments we're making in Microsoft Office, from significant extensions in existing products such as Excel and SharePoint, to new server investments such as the Office Business Scorecard Manager, will make BI and the business insights gleaned from it more pervasive, thereby enhancing the impact of people throughout an organization, which leads to greater overall business success."
Raikes will officially announce Microsoft's BI plans during a Live Meeting Web conference late today. However, the company did announce a few new Office 12 features on Sunday, including new BI connectivity features for Excel 12 that will maintain persistent connections between Excel spreadsheets and server-based data sources, new server-based Excel functionality called Excel Services that will help users "secure, share and manage spreadsheets" on the server and allow them to be viewed in a Web browser or locally on the PC desktop, and new SharePoint/SharePoint Portal features that will provide for the simple creation of Web dashboards that combine data and charts from numerous back-end data sources.
Microsoft says that these new BI features, coupled with Microsoft's historically low prices, will fundamentally change the BI landscape, making it a collaborative, rather than individual, activity. Previously, businesses had to perform complex and costly BI activities outside of the normal business process structure. BI competitors, such as SAP and Oracle, however, note that Microsoft is late to the game, while offering fewer features.