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Microsoft: We will cut partners in on our hosted infrastructure services

The word wafting around the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is that the company will at last outline partner rebate/commission structure for those partners bringing customers to Microsoft-hosted solutions including the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite. BPOS consists of Microsoft-hosted SharePoint and Exchange Server and other services for small businesses, introduced last winter.

The incentives are thought to be less than the 10% fee Microsoft offers partners for bringing customers into the Microsoft-hosted CRM Online but would at least indicate that Microsoft plans to cut partners in on the action.

BPOS is Microsoft’s SMB analogy to the hosted services it has already brought to large companies including Energizer Holdings LLC.

Another big question is whether Microsoft will finally address the big hosted ERP question. As in, will Microsoft host ERP itself anytime in the near future? The company has gone back and forth on that one for some time.

Early returns from some partners converging on Houston. First, one longtime Microsoft partner was very gruntled (is that a word? If not it should be) about the company’s choice of venue. “How do you show your partners love? Drag them to Houston after the fourth of July weekend,” he said.

Here’s another unintended message: Flipping around the hotel TV, one channel has played nothing but a “Windows 98 is shutting down” splash screen for a day now. Things could be worse: It could be Vista.

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The slippery slope with a lot of Business Intelligence tools searches is, as in most software projects, in the requirements planning. Often, people get caught up in what they need to know but they should also be thinking about the problems they need to solve and the information they DON'T have today to solve those problems. If they understand how they will use the information and don't get caught up in the details of the system right away, they will be better off.

Many companies can't envision what reporting needs they have without thinking of the old reporting software and spreadsheets and, in so doing, they get caught in the restrictions they are used to enduring. They need to understand that reporting is the top layer of a very deeply rooted system of data and information. They can create all the pretty reports they want with charts and graphs but if the data is not complete or up-to-date or integrated, the results may be pretty but dangerously inaccurate.

Affordable, flexible reporting tools should go hand-in-hand with mobile, agile business intelligence tools that provide very user with the ability to customize views based on their needs and ensure that they don't have to wait for analysts or programmers to create reports that are error-ridden and inaccurate and too late to be of any use.

Yes, it is important to have a flexible reporting tool that can support drill down reporting, graphs, charts, publishing and delivery, cross-tab OLAP analysis and more. But, if the company isn't a) measuring the right things, b) integrating data from all sources, and c) making this information available at the strategic, operational and tactical level, the business intelligence project will fail and the company will be right back where they started.
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