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Archive for the ‘Performance Point’ Category

The Performance Point turmoil

Posted by thomasivarssonmalmo on February 1, 2009

It is more than a week since the news broke out. PP Planning will be discontinued and PP M&A will go into the next version of MOSS Enterprise Edition.
 
I am lucky to have focused only on PP M&A and only a few hours on planning.
 
My first reaction was why MS would move a cheap product like PP M&A and ProClarity into the expensive MOSS. The next question was why MS would cancel PP Planning since the market for budget applications(even if PP Planning have more features than that) must be big since this i handled manually today even in large organizations?
 
Budgets and forecast are done by by every level of management, not only the top, and many times this is handled by sending out Excel spreadsheets with many revisions before a budget/forecast is approved. The market must be large enough even for MS.
 
What is going on? During the last week I have read blog post, articles and comments on the PP Planning forum to get a view about what has happened and the future.
 
This is only fragments of comments based on sources open to everyone with internet access.
 
  • Buying PP M&A in MOSS maybe is not that expensive per user as I have assumed first. I have heard about 70 USD per user but have not been able to check that.  On the other hand running MOSS in small companies will not be cheap if you consider the consulting fee.
  • The sudden removal of PP Planning(18 months) have surprised many since the sales cycle for these kind of solutions is long.
  • I have heard form collegues in the consulting business, that have implemented PP Planning, that the first version was good enough except for the application to cause heavy loads on the server(MOSS or the free version of Sharepoint)

  I have always been told to find the simple explanation and to avoid the more complex ones. Maybe this change is only about revenue?

I also have been thinking about another scenario. MS has a strong market share in Office applications, Windows on the desktop and Exchange as the communication server. If I am not wrong I have seen that Windows as a server platform is closed to 50 percent of the market.

If MS continues to release service applications on top of Office ,new law suits can be a threat. Since MOSS is not dominant on its market that can be a safe habour for PP M&A.

Since SQL Servers market share is the third in size it can be safer to sell and develop planning applications as a part of this platform instead.

It is a new regime in the White House so maybe this was a preventive action.

Regarding Office 14 I still guess that we will see it on the market next year.

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The best guide to Performance Point Monitoring and Analytics

Posted by thomasivarssonmalmo on May 19, 2008

My first experience with Performance Point M & A was a year ago at the first MS BI conference in Seattle. At that time the plan was  to include a ProClarity tool like Decomposition Tree as a report template but this feature was excluded in the final release. All ProClarity integration have been scheduled to be included in PP M & A version 2.0 .
 
It was ten months later that I have started to really learn how this product works.
 
The first thing was to by a book and the choice was "Monitoring and Analyzing with Microsoft Office Performance Point Server 2007" by Nick Barkley and Adrian Jones(Rational Press). What is my opinion about this book and the product?
 
I will start with the product. Performance Point M & A is more or less the second version of MS BI Scorecard Server. It has nothing to do with ProClarity except that you can integrate ProClarity reports in PP reports in dashboards. It also relies heavily on MS Office web components, a depreciated technology, for making reports. For customers with a working ProClarity solution the upside is only to learn more about the Sharepoint Platform in the form of the free Sharepoint Services or MOSS/Sharepoint 2007 server. The last you will have to pay for. 
 
Anyway PP M & A can be a good choice for ProClarity customers that do not use the ProClarity Dashboard Server.
 
What about the book then? It has 250 pages and does a good job to explain PP M & A for experienced previous MS Business Scorecard Server users. It is not a book for dashboard or balanced scorecard rookies. Even if you have worked with dashboards like the ProClarity version you must start from the beginning. The two writers of the book are 90 percent balanced scorecard guys and they expect you to be experienced in this area.
 
Although this sounds as hard thoughts about the book it is a must have, even if it is a little bit to much balanced scorecard oriented. The book will not give you all the answeres you need but there are some good blogs that will help you with questions that are not covered in the book. This blog seems to be the most important.
 
I am also aware of that you cannot cover everything in a book with 250 pages. If this book is the best or not I do not know, since I have only seen two titles on Amazon and only read this one, but it is good enough and a must have.
 
As a last advice I recommend you to be critical and realize that you will need a good partner in both data warehouse and performance management skills to build good solutions with PP M & A.

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Performance Point is a complex product

Posted by thomasivarssonmalmo on September 25, 2007

Early this summer I had the naive idea that I could do a demo of Performance Point for some customers. Well, some parts of this application is not that hard but after reading this overwiew and I have realized that my failure to explain the planning part, to these customers, was to be expected.  
 
So this are the parts of Performance point:
  • Monitor
    • Scorecard
    • Dashboard
    • Reporting
  • Planning
    • Budgeting
    • Forecasting
    • Consolidation

New books for Performance Point will be published between december 2007 and march 2008. Since the monitor part use known technology that will not be that hard to learn.

For planning, I do not know yet. Since I am not an expert in financial consolidation I would need a partner with experience in this area. This part of Performance Point is competing with Cognos Controller, former known as FRANGO.

Still I do not recommend a customer to use this product unless they have a succesful data warehouse and SSAS solution running in their business. Performance Point is a solution that can work after the efforts of a basic BI solution is up and running(and used by end users).

This product will require you to know more about accounting practises and  even more of how to run a business. 

Since I have been involved in some budget projects lately I know that this processs cause  a lot of pressure on business.  A lot of manual effort, time and spreadsheet anarchy are main parts of this process.

Any application that can kill hours wasted here(the budget process) will succed. I think that the possible success of Performance Point will start here but it will take 2 to 3 years before we will know.

 

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The birth of a new query language

Posted by thomasivarssonmalmo on September 16, 2007

With the release of Performance Point soon coming MS is presenting a new query language included in this product: PEL or Performance Expression Language. You can read more about this in this review of PP here .
 
But first some thoughts about the right query language for the MS BI platform.
 
When is SQL most suitable for queries and reports and when is MDX the best choice?
 
I have always advised my customers to use the relational world(SQL) for leaf level queries and the multidimensional MDX for top level queries. SSAS2005 do a crossjoin of everything you put i a cube(dimensions and measures) and quering the star schema directly with SSRS2005 and TSQL(in an inner join) will only show the combinations that exists between the dimensions and measures involved.  The crossjoin will also show combinations that do not exist.
 
I have never belived the fancy talk of UDM and that you can use SSAS2005 for all reporting. We are far from there.
 
A lot of Information workers(MS vocabulary) sometimes have the wrong tool for the problem. Sales representatives are given a multidimensional client to analyze data in SSAS2005 and only want to see what their customers have bought. With a multidimensional client they are sometimes forced to combine an entire company’s customers with the same company´s leaf level products. When a report like this have been running for several minutes they finally put the NON EMPTY statement on both columns and rows to get what they wanted from the beginning, an inner join of information.
 
MDX is superior for creating advanced time calculations. Creating an accumulated value requires less code than doing the same thing in TSQL.
 
Working with the report part of BI projects on top of the MS platform will require you to know when MDX or TSQL is the best choice.
 
So what is PEL then? I am quoting OLAP reports review of PP on page 17:
 
  • It is the new MDX-like language used in PP to define nearly all calculations
  • The PEL compiler validates and translates expressions into either SQL or MDX
  • PEL also detects many errors at compile-time that Analysis Services would only detect at runtime

This sounds good and perhaps is the way to solve the problem that I have decribed above.

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More on Performance Point

Posted by thomasivarssonmalmo on June 9, 2007

I have spent some time learning about Performance Point CT2. A new CTP3 is on the way this month with the final features included.
 
This product actually consist of three previous products:
  • BIZ: Never released outside of Microsoft but used internally, according to MS-people I have talked with. This is the Planning part of Performance Point.
  • Business Scorecard Server 2005: This is one of two products in Performance Point Analytics.
  • ProClarity Analytics: This is the second product in PP-Analytics.
 
Planning is not that simple product that I have expected. Budget is a complex process with most organizations. I know because I have built a solution for a customer with DTS and Analysis Services writeback. The three days I have spent to learn more about Planning was not sufficient. It will probably take two weeks or more to know this product fairly well.
 
The main steps in Planning to set up are:
  • All users of the planning application
  • All roles for the users like budget approver and budget contributor
  • The cube model for the budget process
  • The forms for entering budget data(Excel)
  • The budget cycle
  • Business logic
  • And more

Still I think that Planning will be great because many organizaions have very simple applications like Excel Sheets for the budget process(time consuming) and Performance Point will have a competetive price tag. In this first release I do think that organizations that use this product will need consulting/experts to set up this. It is to complicated for end users.

The new version of Business Scorecard Server 2005(in PP-analytics) is also a big step forward in building KPI:s. The tools like indicators and the visual support for setting thresh holds and trends are things that make me doubtful about the future of KPI:s in SSAS2005/2008.

Some of ProClaritys visual tools(Decomposition Tree) will be included in the Report design/creation part of PP-Analytics. They will not appear as client add ins for Excel 2007 only as design tools for creating reports for a Dashboard. Both the scorecard part and the ProClarity part is incorporated into PP-dashboard designer. The portal for publishing is either Sharepoint 3.0 or Sharepoint 2007 server. It is also possible to publish directly to Excel and Powerpoint files but also to Reporting Services.

If you like other ProClarity tools like the Performance map they will not be included in the first release. My guess is also that ProClarity will be a fully integrated release of the next version of Office.

The last release of ProClarity Analytics(6.3) will be last version of Professional, Analytics Server and Dashboard Server. I have worked with this platform since it was only an Olap Services client in 1999.

After the 6.3 release  it is Excel, Reporting Services, Performance Point and Sharepoint that will be the future of MS-BI reporting. 

 

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