Microsoft App Keeps Score

'Maestro' analyzes business metrics.

Microsoft Corp. last week released the first private beta for a new product code-named Maestro, a server-based business performance management score card application that is expected to ship in the last quarter of the year.

Maestro is designed to help users perform deep analysis by using Microsoft Office to build, manage and use score cards and key performance indicators, said Chris Caren, general manager of Microsofts Business Applications Group, in Redmond, Wash.

Whether a customers business applications are running on an Oracle Corp. database, IBMs DB2 or Microsofts SQL Server, "all they have to do is get their data in through ADB or make a cube of that data. There are no restrictions as to where the source data comes from, and it can be loaded into the current analysis services built into SQL Server or access the raw data from wherever it is," Caren said.

Customers wanting to use Maestro need a server and a client access license for both SQL and SharePoint Portal Server, Caren said. While this first beta is limited to several dozen key partners and customers, the second, public beta, which is expected sometime this summer, will be distributed to a much larger group.

"[The goal of Maestro] is to enable the next step in our business intelligence product strategy, which lets customers who have deployed data warehouses to support reporting and analysis to now deploy score cards and strategy maps to employees—in many cases, managers—to let them track and analyze business metrics and utilize score cards to really map individuals and what theyre accountable for to corporate strategy," Caren said.

Some companies with existing BI solutions welcomed Maestro. Allen Emerick, IT director for Skanska USA Building Inc.—a Maestro beta participant that is based in Parsippany, N.J.—said Maestro provided Skanska with the tools needed to improve business performance.

The move toward deploying dashboards and score cards is a big trend in the market at this point, both at a high level within organizations and at the departmental level, Caren said.

Lewis Lewin, vice president of Microsofts Business Intelligence Applications Group, said the company is working toward offering a suite of BI products; that market totals between $3 billion and $4 billion a year, according to Lewin.

When asked what part of that market Microsoft was going after, Lewin said, "Basically all of it."

Maestro will work with the current version of Office 2003 and future versions of Office, but it will not work with Office XP. Maestro will also support the current version of SQL Server 2000 as well as its upcoming release, code-named Yukon.