What is PerformancePoint?

PerformancePoint Services has one major mission in life: to enable you to create rich, context-driven dashboards that aggregate data and content to provide a complete view of how your business is performing at all levels.

If you look across Microsoft’s BI stack, you’ll find several tools to create dashboards to visualize and understand your business and PerformancePoint Services is one of these great tools. PerformancePoint’s differentiator is two-fold. You’ll want to use PerformancePoint as a direct path to integrating your data into SharePoint in a native and interactive way. The second is that PerformancePoint is the tool of choice when you need to give your users the power of analysis while still maintaining the control and security that your business needs require.

Of course accessing your data is the biggest concern, and PerformancePoint Services takes that need to heart with the ability to create connections to your data in an abundant selection of sources, but in a consistent way. Whether your company has a complex Analysis Services data model, or you are trying to report on a collection of sources from SharePoint Lists to Excel Workbooks, PerformancePoint has you covered.

But what is it really? What is PerformancePoint Services made of, and how can you get value out of it? PerformancePoint Services is part of SharePoint 2010 and surfaces itself in a web part page like a SharePoint savvy user might expect. It’s real power is unleashed in the following ways:

PerformancePoint Services starts with its authoring experience. The Dashboard Designer application is your toolbox to create from the bottom up: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Scorecards, Analytic Charts and Grids, Reports, Filters and Dashboards. Each component is unique to PerformancePoint Services and provides functionality that interacts with a server component that handles the hard parts like data connectivity and security.

The Dashboard Designer is a WYSIWYG experience, the pieces you build will appear in the browser exactly how you created them. That brings us to the second part, the end-user experience. PerformancePoint Services is designed with sharing in mind. The pieces you build are bundled into a dashboard and presented in a SharePoint page that understands who is viewing it and what they are allowed to see. That means you design, you publish and they consume…no IT involvement, no complicated workflows.

PPS BookFor a more in-depth look at what PerformancePoint is, view our TechNet Article. Also check out the Microsoft SharePoint 2010 PerformancePoint Services Unleashed book co-authored by our team’s own Kevin Beto!

What Else?

But wait, there’s more! The title of this post suggests “What else is PerformancePoint?” If you have experience building data-centric SharePoint pages, you’ll immediately understand the depth of building these types of assets for your company’s users. From layout issues to finding and re-using content, to complex connections between components, whether in the browser or using SharePoint designer, there is a knowledge requirement as well as a good helping of experience that goes a long way.

PerformancePoint’s Dashboard Designer and SharePoint integration goes a long way to helping your users tie these pieces together, and even help your power users build these pages faster!

You will often hear someone say “That’s a PerformancePoint Dashboard.” While true, that’s a misleading statement. A PerformancePoint Dashboard is a simple SharePoint Web Part Page. The only thing unique about it is the web parts that happen to be placed in the Web Part zones.

Where the magic comes in, is how flexible PerformancePoint web parts are. We have Excel Services web parts, Reporting Services web parts, ProClarity web parts, Visio web parts and of course our own collection of native Analytic Reports. While our Scorecards and native Analytic Reports provide tremendous value, they are not required.

In addition to allowing you to view the content you want, we’ve taken the care to wrap it in intelligent web parts that understand how to pass values around, and even update in a modern way so the entire page doesn’t have to reload because a user has filtered or interacted with something.

With this, I would propose that PerformancePoint is a fantastic tool to create Business Intelligence dashboards on SharePoint from a wealth of content sources. Dashboard Designer is a simple tool to use and manage those complex connections and filters. It makes for a formidable tool for building complex dashboards or even building the building blocks for more complex dashboards.

By creating your most common Data Sources, KPIs and Reports, you can then use Dashboard Designer to quickly assemble and deploy dashboards to SharePoint.

To add a last bit of motivation to get out and try PerformancePoint, keep these things in mind: If you have SharePoint 2010 Enterprise, you already have it! If you can’t build a Business Intelligence Center site, ask your admin to enable the PerformancePoint Services feature on your site, it’s literally a “click a button and turn it on” process. Secondly, while before 2010, using PerformancePoint without an Analysis Services data source felt like a secondary experience; today you can build a data model quickly in Power Pivot for Excel, upload it to a SharePoint document library, and connect to it with PerformancePoint as a data source to access PerformancePoint features that were previously unavailable to users without Analysis Services cubes.

Keep an eye out for deeper dives on these topics in the future. Be sure to reach out to us on Twitter and in the blog comments if you want to know more or have questions or issues using our product.

Jason Burns
Program Manager
Office BI, Microsoft