Microsoft Takes Up Scorecarding

Performance management app aims to maximize Office.

Unwilling to cede any portion of the the enterprise software market to its competitors, Microsoft Corp. is pushing into the business intelligence space with a new offering designed to help customers get more out of their investments in Office.

The Redmond, Wash., company last week announced that its Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005 will be available in November. This is a new, server-based business scorecarding application that takes advantage of the Office system and extends the SQL Server platform to help enterprises deploy personalized scorecards to employees so they can track key performance indicators against goals.

Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division, said the server will cost $5,000 and the CAL (Client Access License) will go for $175 per user. "This is just a fraction of the cost of comparable solutions," Raikes said during a Web conference.

Some enterprise customers have welcomed Microsofts move into the business scorecard space.

Allen Emerick, the IT director for Skanska USA Building Inc., in Parsippany, N.J., said the product would provide the company with the visibility and tools needed to improve business performance that are critical in todays marketplace.

The way people work is also changing, Raikes said, citing the need for people to work across organizational boundaries, the expectation of richer capabilities from users and far more transparency in how IP is managed, and meeting government regulations and requirements.

"People are always on and always connected, and this is most relevant to what we are discussing today around business intelligence. This creates new challenges like people feeling they are simultaneously suffering from information overload and information underload, where they cant access the information they really need, and that is what we believe we have to address," he said.

BI is not as pervasive inside organizations as it could be, Raikes said, only reaching approximately 20 percent of those users who could benefit from it.

"The reasons for this are that users see it as inconvenient, expensive and hard to use. But we at Microsoft see this as an opportunity, and we want to transform what BI means to a company and to make it as pervasive as e-mail," Raikes said.

Dan Vesset, an analyst at IDC, of Framingham, Mass., said that the BI market has seen a 17 percent compound annual growth rate during the past 10 years, reaching $4.3 billion in worldwide software revenue. But, until now, the vendors primary focus has been on analysts and power users, he said.

"By integrating new BI functionality into Office and ensuring Office connectivity to the SQL Server platform, Microsoft has the potential to both broaden the use of BI by business users and provide IT staff with greater control over deployment and maintenance of the BI platform," he said.

Microsoft is also extending BI beyond the platform to user tools and BI applications for better business performance.

Raikes said Microsoft is hearing from its customers that they want to be able to have BI reach more people by being able to deliver it through Office, as this would provide a simple user experience for accessing and working with that business information by putting them into the context of the familiar tools they have today.

The performance management technologies will be provided through the Business Scorecard product, with the user tools coming on the portal and collaboration side through SharePoint 12 technologies; with user analysis coming through Excel 12; and integration, analysis, reporting and data warehousing coming from SQL Server 2005, which Microsoft plans to launch next week.

Raikes also confirmed that Office "12" will be in beta by years end, with the product due in the second half of next year.