Microsoft takes BI to the next level

Microsoft takes BI to the next level

Benefits of ease of integration and familiar interface highlighted at customer launch event

Microsoft held a UK customer event this week to highlight the launch of its Office PerformancePoint Server business intelligence (BI) solution, where experts outlined the twin benefits of ease of integration and familiarity with the tools.

The UK launch of PerformancePoint Server last month followed a period of beta testing during which 10,000 versions of the product were downloaded, according to Tony Crowhurst, product marketing manager for PerformancePoint.

Microsoft’s key selling points for the new product are the use of the familiar Excel interface, and the ability to easily and cheaply integrate with other Microsoft products.

“We are not delivering a new tool; we are just making Excel do BI,” said Alex Payne, Microsoft Sequel Server product manager.

At the event, car retailer Inchcape highlighted PeformancePoint’s ability to integrate with other products as a significant benefit.

Peter Wilson, Inchcape’s business analysis manager, said the car dealer had had significant difficulty two years ago when integrating analytics tools from ProClarity with its existing IT infrastructure, particularly in the areas of planning and forecasting.

Wilson said that had PerformancePoint Server been available then, “undoubtedly we would have gone down that route, because the benefit you get from integration and a common set of products is significant”.

With its acquisition of ProClarity in 2006, Microsoft was able to create PerformancePoint’s integrated planning, monitoring and analysis functionality.

Microsoft was also keen to reiterate that PerformancePoint Server is not the vendor’s first step into the BI arena. Chris Caren, general manager of Office business applications, pointed out that Sequel Server and Excel both hold BI capabilities, and are used by 80 per cent of the market as their preferred BI solution.

However, Microsoft needed to develop the “traditional Bill Gates’ personal computing model” to give an enterprise view, Caren explained. He added that the problem with Excel for enterprise BI use is that it is used in isolation, with each department filling in a separate Excel spreadsheet.