On December 5, Microsoft announced the public availability of a Community Technology Preview (CTP) test build of PerformancePoint Server 2007.
If you're not a KPI (key-performance-indicator) jockey, you probably haven't paid much attention to Microsoft's PerformancePoint. But here's why it matters, in the grander Microsoft scheme of things.
Almost all of Microsoft's recent talk about Office has centered around the desktop application suite as ... well, a desktop application suite.
But Microsoft also is angling for Office to be a front-end to back-end business applications. That's what the company's push around OBA (Office Business Applications) and the recently introduced OBA RAPs (OBA Reference Application Packs) is all about.
"We see an opportunity to make Office and SharePoint Server a front end for lots of back-end business systems," both from Microsoft and third parties, said Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of Microsoft's information worker product management group, with whom I spoke at last week's business launch of Windows Vista and Office 2007.
There are a few OBAs on the market already, Capossela said. The Microsoft-SAP-codeveloped Duet product is one (even though the first release doesn't use SharePoint), he said. The next versions of all of Microsoft's own Dynamics ERP products -- as well as Microsoft Dynamics CRM -- will be OBAs, Capossela said. And PerformancePoint Server is a prime example of an OBA, Capossela added.
Microsoft is expecting more OBAs from various third-party developers. There could be a Siebel OBA, human-resources OBAs, financial-management OBAs. The sky's the limit, Capossela said.
OBAs are important to Microsoft because they provide yet another way to get Office entrenched in businesses. And via its related Line of Business Interoperability (LOBi) service, Microsoft is hoping to get SharePoint Server equally embedded inside corporate IT shops.
(Capossela offered a short, comprehensible definition of LOBi when I spoke with him last week. "LOBi is simply the next version of the Business Data Catalog service," he said. It will icontinue to be integrated into all future versions of SharePoint Server, he said.)
OBAs and LOBi are both part of Microsoft's overarching push to make Office more roles-based/verticalized. And it looks like Microsoft's planning a similar vertical -- and horizontal -- push with PerformancePoint Server, too.
Microsoft general manager Bill Baker, as quoted in today's PerformancePoint press release: "In the longer term, our plans for releases beyond version 1 of PerformancePoint Server include building our offering out horizontally, into areas such as sales and operations planning, human workforce planning and sales and marketing planning. We will also continue to cultivate our important partner ecosystem to build out additional verticalized solutions."