Meg Waters February 26th, 2009
Avid readers of BPM Express will recall that in the fall of 2007 Microsoft debuted PerformancePoint Server amid much fanfare. The business performance management (BPM) market was roiling from the year's rampant M&A activity, and the entry of behemoth Microsoft got a lot of attention.
The company seemed to be serious about becoming a player. Even in its first version, PerformancePoint encompassed a comprehensive approach to BPM. It included data visualization and dashboard functionality, which Microsoft purchased through its acquisition of ProClarity, and it included a planning and reporting platform that Microsoft spent several years developing. The company sounded a populist note in its PerformancePoint promotions. It claimed that the BPM suite, which fell under the wide Office umbrella, would expand the scope of BPM beyond finance, bringing it to desktops throughout the organization. That was an attractive idea, but the shine wore off pretty fast.
In late January, Microsoft surprised almost everyone by announcing that it was going to roll PerformancePoint's scorecard, dashboard, and analytics functionality into SharePoint Server and rebrand those capabilities "PerformancePoint Services for SharePoint." Kurt DelBene, senior vice president of the Office business platform group at Microsoft, said that the change helps Microsoft fulfill PerformancePoint's original mission of "bringing BI to the masses." At the same time, the company announced that it is discontinuing PerformancePoint Planning, rolling features into Microsoft Dynamics.
No longer will PerformancePoint be sold as an independent piece of software. Microsoft does intend to release an Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 Service Pack 3 later this year to fix bugs in the planning module, and it claims that it will continue providing support for the BPM suite for the next decade. Clearly, though, PerformancePoint did not live up to the initial hype.
By the end of last year, Microsoft's product road maps lacked information about substantial new investments in PerformancePoint functionality. Still, most watchers of the BPM market (myself included) were surprised that the product was essentially killed. What happened?
John Colbert, vice president of research and analysis for BPM Partners, sees two primary factors as driving the product's demise. First, he says, although Microsoft claimed to target both business and IT professionals, ultimately PerformancePoint was an IT platform and was not a particularly business- or finance-friendly product. "Microsoft clearly tried to commoditize performance management and business intelligence in a single platform, which they did by empowering the IT department to develop a wide range of capabilities on the PerformancePoint platform," Colbert says. "But we at BPM Partners feel performance management and business intelligence applications aren't successful if they can't support the business user in some capabilities, independent of IT."
In addition, Colbert says that Microsoft turned out to be impatient. Their version 1 product took on much more mature products - even as economic crisis hit the nation - and it seems that it did not generate the results Microsoft wanted as quickly as it expected.
Colbert's explanation echoes comments Nigel Pendse, of the OLAP Report, made in September 2007, after receiving a preview of the exciting new BPM suite: "Both building and using models are more technical than we would like. The clunky user interface certainly requires more work. Application development with PerformancePoint may be more laborious and hit-or-miss than with more mature products."
Pendse now reflects that the complex PerformancePoint Planning needed quick follow-up releases to incorporate early customer feedback, but Microsoft unwisely tied the releases beyond version 1.0 to Office updates. Those multiyear release schedules "are entirely suitable for widely deployed, mature products like Office, but entirely unsuitable for an incomplete young product like PerformancePoint Planning. ... While Microsoft could price PerformancePoint as low as it liked, there was no getting around the fact that the planning component was an inherently complex application and quite unlike the tools that make up the rest of the Microsoft BI product line."
As a result, PerformancePoint's thousands of beta testers did not translate into thousands of paying customers. How does this fact reflect on the BPM market as a whole? The answer from John Colbert is: It doesn't. He points to the BPM vendors that are thriving as the economy requires companies to gain better insight into their performance. "PerformancePoint was a misfire on Microsoft's part. It was too complex, and bringing it to maturity would have taken more time than Microsoft was ready to invest. Independent of Microsoft's pull back, our research shows that BPM is still a very healthy market."
For companies that invested in PerformancePoint installations for the functionality that was formerly ProClarity, SharePoint may still offer a good solution. And for companies that already run Microsoft Dynamics, PerformancePoint's planning capabilities might continue to be appealing. For other organizations that bought PerformancePoint, well, as this issue's Product Briefs section (above) suggests, a lot of vendors with better-established performance management systems would be happy to help you migrate.