So why the angry cinnamon - A good question: READ I have absolutely NO idea. A term used internally and although I don't know it's exact origin - I'm crediting Chuck Mitten who works in the Microsoft OBA Partner team in Boise.
So let's break this down.
BI has historically been a ‘read-only’ business. The IT department delivers a great, clean, trusted data layer. The users grab that data in rich tools like Excel and they develop insights. But what happens after that? Unless you translate your insights into a plan, and record that plan somewhere, we’ll never know if your insights, and your actions, made a real difference to the business.
So let’s say I am retail analyst and I'm doing some store analysis. I need to interact with and use complete data, sales and expenses which is delivered from the operational data store, I use corporate data, fully burdened by allocated costs, and I decide that we need to move two inside sales reps out to the sales floor.
In PerformancePoint, we record that decision. You’ve effectively changed your resource allocation. You are now accountable for that decision. Next month, or maybe next quarter, we can compare your forecast with the new resource allocation to actual data and we’ll all know if that was a good decision or not. And one of the great things about accountability is, the flip-side of that coin is auditability. In PerformancePoint, we know who saw what data, because we log that, who made what decision, because we made BI read-write and of course, we know the result.
The other nice feature of PerformancePoint Server is that because we’re at this higher level of the stack, we can give each user the right amount of data to make a decision; not too little AND more importantly not too much. Generally we use Excel. So, when the sales forecast is due, we send the sales rep a link to a spreadsheet. In fact, it’s a link to the PerformancePoint server. When the user hits that link, we generate a spreadsheet that has the right amount of data for that user, the correct, current data. They add their inputs to the forecast, submit it and we move it along to the next person in the business flow, usually the manager. The user never had to hunt for data, never saw too much data or the wrong data. We record what they did, when they did it. And the whole time, the user was just ‘using Excel’ something they already know how to do. This is good for users of course, but it’s good for IT departments too. Because, deep down, we’ve taken this formerly document oriented, hard to control, hard to manage process and made it a centrally managed, controlled, database process. But the users just keep using Excel…
OK, so when we talk about Microsoft business intelligence and performance management we look at it from three perspectives:
And we use these platforms to help us answer the questions below:
Starting from the top right hand corner the first two are really about monitoring your business . The third is analysis, plain and simple. The last two are really about planning. And it’s a cycle. You see something happening, you delve into it and you make a plan to address it. Or you have a plan, you watch for actual results. If they are anomalous, you do some analysis. In Performance Management we support the whole Monitor, Analyze, Plan cycle. Today we have two products in the market at this tier of the stack. Business Scorecard Manager 2005 is our tool for monitoring your business. It, working with SQL Server Analysis Services and SQL Server Reporting Services, answers those first two questions; What happened? And what is happening? ProClarity 6.2 is a tool that adds value to Analysis Services and address the third question; Why?
In the summer of 2007 we’ll merge these two tools, actually the next versions of these tools with a new planning component to form PerformancePoint Server 2007. We’ve been working on the planning component for a while. It’s important because not only does it address the last two questions, but it also adds the corporate aspect of trusting your decisions, and the accountability.
By corporate, we mean two things. First, decisions should be made using data that reflects corporate reality. Going back to my sales analysis from earlier, using data at the store level might lead to one set of decisions. But when I factor in corporate effects, like regional and national costs, I might make a very different set of decisions. So PerformancePoint includes an engine that does consolidation, allocation and inter-company eliminations. The second part of this is making decisions in the context of the corporate process. So if I want to budget more advertising dollars in my region, that plan needs to be approved by my boss. Or my sales forecast has to go to my district manager before it gets locked down. PerformancePoint includes the functionality for implementing your company’s business process in the decision making flow.
Anyway, that’s the stack.
So when I begin to deconstruct the stack and look at partner services the opportunities are plentiful. What's really interesting is the services at the top of the stack in the Performance Management layer. For example services such as metrics development involve highly strategic engagements requiring close interaction at board level to ensure firstly that you're helping your customer to measure the right things and also help them to drive business alignment down and across the organisation. Gaining pervasive adoption therefore emphasise's the need to drive a structured business change programme. Because of the highly strategic nature of these activities - they represent a premium level service, and you're therefore able to charge accordingly. We can assist by reducing the cost of software acquisition and utilising existing technology assets.
If we look at the concept of business process consulting we can begin to draw some similar conclusions. Business methodologies such as balanced scorecarding, activity based costing and six sigma are extremely useful in providing a framework for Performance Management however in isolation they are just that - FRAMEWORKS. A methodology without a performance management process will undoubtedly end in failure. Equally a performance management process that needs to integrate disparate planning & budgeting, forecasting, and management reporting applications will ultimately lead to extra time and cost that needs to be absorbed by either the partner or passed on to the customer potentially putting the performance management programme and your services revenue at risk.
So that's it. As always I'm looking for feedback - so feel free to leave a comment at the end of this blog post and I'll be sure to respond.