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PerformancePoint move puts Microsoft BI plan in flux

Microsoft Dynamics partners see the PerformancePoint-to-SharePoint move as a big, and confusing, shift in Microsoft's business intelligence strategy.

Microsoft's decision to suck the bulk of PerformancePoint's business intelligence capabilities into SharePoint is having a big impact on the company's partners that sell and support Dynamics ERP and CRM applications.

Microsoft has told those partners over the past year that PerformancePoint was the strategic migration path for customers now running Microsoft FrX , Forecaster and Enterprise Reporting business intelligence (BI) products. That advice is no longer operative, several partners told "That other [move to PerformancePoint] plan is now reversed," said one veteran Dynamics partner..

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In late January, Microsoft said it would repackage PerformancePoint's score carding, dashboard and analytics as "PerformancePoint Services for SharePoint." On its website, Microsoft Senior Vice President Kurt DelBene, of the Office Business platform group, promised a new Service Pack 3 later this year for the current Office PerformancePoint Server 2007. After that, the standalone PerformancePoint SKU is gone.

Sources close to Microsoft said the company is working on a successor to FrX called Management Reporter that will likely become the go-to report writing tool for the various business applications. And Enterprise Reporting is going back on the price list, with Microsoft canceling its previous discontinuation dates.

Microsoft is also mulling over whether to update FrX or Reporter, or to just continue to support those products. Partners expect to hear more details at the Microsoft Convergence 2009 show next month in New Orleans. They also want to learn more about how analytics capabilities built into the various ERP and CRM products will overlap with or augment similar capabilities now going into SharePoint.

Microsoft will only say that the PerformancePoint-to-SharePoint move will be "great news to partners" and a continuation of the company's "business intelligence for the masses" push.

Partners aren't necessarily buying that explanation, but some Dynamics partners that are also big into SharePoint think the addition of analytics to the enterprise SharePoint SKU will spark upgrades from the standard editions and that could mean good business. And some partners that felt the PerformancePoint migration message was heavy handed are glad to hear it is going away.

"People are staying on FrX," said one West Coast Dynamics partner. "It's all about what the customers want and the existing customers. No way were they going to PerformancePoint unless Microsoft killed FrX, which would be a huge mistake." In that partner's opinion, PerformancePoint was nowhere near ready for primetime.

A Microsoft spokeswoman via email denied reports that the PerformancePoint changes were sparked by layoffs within that group.

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