Microsoft to Merge "BI" Tool Into SharePoint

The Microsoft product consolidation will mean lower costs for business customers and potential new business for channel partners.

Microsoft announced last week that it is merging its main business intelligence (BI) tool into its portal, search, and collaboration package, Office SharePoint Server. The move could spark additional business for Microsoft channel partners.

Microsoft's goal is to make it easier for SharePoint Server customers to deploy BI solutions.

Going forward, customers who buy Office SharePoint Server Enterprise will now also get PerformancePoint Server, a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) statement said. Starting now the BI tool has been repackaged and rebranded as "PerformancePoint Services" in SharePoint.

The next version of SharePoint Server, meanwhile, will have PerformancePoint integrated into the product, although Microsoft officials have not said when that will release. Microsoft's goal is to get more customers to use the company's BI technologies, based on the runaway popularity of SharePoint.

Channel partners could gain from the move, according to a Microsoft official. "Partners who are currently engaged in selling and deploying PerformancePoint Server Monitoring & Analytics will likely see an uptick in the number of people interested in Microsoft’s BI solutions," Kristina Kerr, lead product manager for Microsoft Business Intelligence, said in an e-mailed statement. "We also expect existing deployments will likely see an increase in the number of seats needing to be deployed."

Lower Customer Costs

The consolidation of the two products will mean lower costs to customers who want to deploy BI features and give system integrators and other partners an opportunity to engage in deeper discussions with customers about the benefits of BI.

Ask Ryan Buma, business intelligence partner at Ascentium, an interactive technology and marketing agency headquartered in Bellevue, Wash. The firm claims to be one of "roughly 30 Microsoft partners in the world with deep expertise in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft BI, and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007," according to Ascentium's website. (Buma formerly worked on Microsoft's BI team.)

"From the perspective of a systems integrator, there are a lot of benefits [to the consolidation]," Buma said. Enterprise customers will already have PerformancePoint included in the client access license (CAL) for SharePoint Enterprise, for one thing.

"That allows us to get in and tell them about the benefits of BI," Buma added. "Hey, as part of the Enterprise CAL, it has a bunch of business intelligence bits, would you like to have a conversation about that?"

One analyst says that combining the two is a smart move.

"[The consolidation] allows the reseller to have a conversation with the customer about PerformancePoint, and that could potentially generate a lot of revenue," said Paul DeGroot, analyst at Directions on Microsoft.

SharePoint Server Grows in Popularity

After all, Office SharePoint Server has grown into a long-running hit, evolving over the past few years until it became a $1 billion business in its own right in fiscal 2008, which ended last June 30. The company, in fact, held a SharePoint conference last March – a sign that Microsoft's portal and collaborative server product has officially 'arrived.'

Now, Microsoft is looking to leverage that burgeoning market to popularize PerformancePoint. Indeed, bundling one technology with another at no additional cost as a move to get a leg up on competitors has been a common practice for Microsoft over the years.

"The benefit for customers is that it doesn't cost them more for the technology, since it comes bundled with SharePoint Server Enterprise, and payment for some business value and deployment consulting can be covered by Software Assurance benefits," Buma said.

This commoditizing of technologies to drive the price down has also been a Microsoft hallmark – the company's marketers even refer to PerformancePoint Server as "BI for the masses."

"Our decision is based on wanting customers to truly experience pervasive business intelligence in their organization at a low cost through the tools they use every day," Kurt DelBene, senior vice president of the Microsoft Office Business Platform group, said in an online statement this week.

Microsoft introduced Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 for business scorecarding, executive dashboarding, and business analysis on top of Office SharePoint Server 2007 in 2006.

"It strikes me as a pretty good move," Directions on Microsoft's DeGroot said. "When you put it [PerformancePoint] into SharePoint Server, it's another feature that you can sell."

In the meantime, Service Pack 3 (SP3) for PerformancePoint Server 2007, due out mid-year, will be the last. SP3 will include updates to the current product’s planning module.

Following SP3's release, Microsoft will no longer sell a standalone PerformancePoint Server 2007 product. However, the company will continue to support the standalone product well into the next decade, DelBene's statement said.

TAGS: Microsoft,server,business intelligence,SharePoint

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