and its huge!
I am doing the Microsoft Partner BI Bootcamp and yesterday was the first day.
Amongst many things that we were shown was the new Biz# Performance Management tool. In the past I have seen screenshots and I have considered it to be only a holder and management tool for cubes.
My assumptions were very wrong. There was so much more to it that I missed some of the points but what I did get was that it is a full blown performance management tool.
In this tool you define dimensions and cubes (called models) as one would expect. You can also define security as one would expect. What I did not expect is the ability to define complex consolidation processes, business rules and workflow.
There is the ability to model large complex companies with multiple currencies, multiple reporting rules and consolidation rules.
It is possible to establish a master definition of the whole process and then use this as a template for subsiduries. In this way global models can be defined and local additions made.
In order to define the rules there is a new rule language. The idea of this is that business analysts can define rules without needing to know MDX or TSQL. You define the rule using this syntax and this is then translated into MDX or TSQL as appropriate. When I first heard this I groaned thinking that I would need to learn another new language, but, I think that the syntax is nice and simple. The problem I can see is that there is a danger that this approach as the result might be too intimidating for some and too simplistic to deal with the more complex processes. I dont know it will need to be properly understood and I didnt get that yet.
The Biz# Component also manages the performance gathering operations. This includes the forms which are written and completed in Excel. There is a workflow engine included in PerformancePoint but because of the different release cycles at Microsoft this is not currently the Windows Workflow or Sharepoint workflow. This may change in the future.
There are so many nice bits already visible in the application, for example if a forecast is made on the basis of a formula then that formula is recorded as well as the resulting forecast value. It is also possible to define how parent forecasts can be distributed through children. (It was spotted by an eagle eyed atendee that this was not quite right as sometimes the sum of the children did not quite add up to the parent. This may have beed a rounding error but it was not clear).
Once you have defined the models you deploy them to a server. From then on there is multy users editing with check in and out. The deploy process can create all the cubes and associated Analysis Services functionality. It will also build a staging database to support the cubes and simplify the data imports required.
Overall this is going to be a stunning suite in the Performance Management space. I can see that THE skill to have in the future is going to be Business Analysis and Performance Point and Microsoft are setting up a partner specalisation and exams to support this. When you see the scope and scale of the product and then include the Business Scorecard and Proclarity suites as well then there is a strong product which would do well on its own. Throw in the aggressive pricing strategy Microsoft are intending and it will be a winner.
The road map is that the Biz# Performance modeling tool will be in Beta on 11th November. (The BSM and Proclarity are of course out already). The pricing will be announced in Q1 2007 and the full integrated product should be RTM in June 2007. (NB These dates are as currently standing and may be subject to change …. etc etc)
One final thing that I have noticed. The positioning of Reporting Services seems to be moving. It is now being shown as further down the stack – moving more into the back office side with SQL RDMS and less in the user tools space. From the perspective of PerformancePoint it seems that Proclarity will be the dominant reporting tool. Reporting Services is more targeted at Line of business reporting .
Onward to todays sessions.