Microsoft will release to private beta this week a new, server-based business-performance-management scorecard application, code-named “Maestro,” which helps users perform deep analysis by leveraging the Microsoft Office System to build, manage and use scorecards and key performance indicators.
Chris Caren, general manager of Microsofts Business Applications Group, told eWEEK in an interview Monday that while this first beta is limited to several dozen key partners and customers, the second and public beta, expected sometime this summer, will be far wider. But he declined to be more specific or to say when Microsoft expects the product to ship.
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. has been working on Maestro for several years now, and last summer released the first version of the solution to the market, known as the Business Scorecard Accelerator, which is available as a free download. The company said the software has been downloaded about 40,000 times since then.
“So, we have a lot of experience with the version one product, but that is many steps behind where Maestro is, as we have learned a lot from customer and partner feedback and Maestro has thus evolved into a commercial score-carding application,” Caren said.
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 scorecards and strategy maps to employees, in many cases managers, to let them track and analyze business metrics and utilize scorecards to really map individuals and what theyre accountable for to corporate strategy,” he said.
This was an evolution from report-centric to more metric-centric business intelligence, Caren said, adding that “Maestro” leveraged the Office System and will run on either version of SharePoint 2003.
It is a Web-based score-carding system that deploys through SharePoint Portal Server. It also can be used with or without the business intelligence available in Microsofts SQL Server product, such as reporting and analysis.
“But after talking to customers, the vast majority say that they will deploy both in parallel,” Caren said. “In addition, those partners with complementary business intelligence technology and applications will be able to embed Maestro as the score-carding component of their overall solution.”
“It has been built to be really easily embedded into other applications, and the entire front end of Maestro can be consumed as Web services, so the goal is to enable both customers and partners to be able to deploy it as part of a broader application.
“We believe there is a strong opportunity for partners to take our capabilities and deliver solutions that drive the value up to a higher level. This provides those partners with a stronger tool set to customize and deploy into the market,” he said.
Leveraging Microsofts Stack
The level of interest from both customers and partners has been high so far, he said, adding that the move toward deploying dashboards and scorecards is one of the biggest trends in the market at this point, both at a high level within organizations as well as in departments such as finance, sales and IT.
Caren said Maestro makes it far easier for users to build and maintain a scorecard—adding and moving a metric—and this enables more end-user ownership of the product. “We are trying to bring down the bar of the training required to manage your own scorecard with Maestro compared to other products in the market,” he said.
Looking to the future, Caren said the product will extend and leverage the broader Microsoft stack—including both structured and unstructured data—from information available in the warehouse to information available in an Office document, while collaboration with SharePoint will enable group collaboration around a metric or performance issue.
Asked about what products and platforms Maestro will be able to take advantage of, Caren said when it goes public, it will work with the current version of Office 2003 as well as with future versions of Office, but not Office XP. It also will support the current SQL Server 2000 as well as the upcoming next release, code-named Yukon.
“There will be significant additional functionality enabled through Maestro in Yukon, but it will still work very well with SQL 2000. While Maestro is a product that works very well with SQL Server, it can also consume information from other types of data sources,” he said.
While Microsofts strategy is to encourage its partners and customers to use SQL Server as the core for their data warehousing and to have their business intelligence live there, “we do have the broader ability to consume information in our scorecards beyond just a SQL data source,” he said.
While the Office Business Applications Group is relatively new and is part of the Information Worker business unit, customers increasingly will see the end-user product strategy around business intelligence being driven out of Information Worker and the business applications group.
“We will more and more take a leadership role in end-user capabilities around business intelligence. Another big thrust for us is to enable what we call line-of-business connectivity in the Office system and back-office processes and information, Caren said.
An example of this is the recent Mendocino announcement that Microsoft made with SAP AG, in which Microsoft Office System effectively became the front end for many SAP processes and processing SAP information, he said.