Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ON 2009 GOTO 2006

Recent events related to PerformancePoint Planning have been surprising to some and (perhaps unsurprisingly) a source of relief for others. By now we've read all of the "told you so" and "OMG they Killed Kenny!" posts and articles, and we've read the official line from Microsoft. Those who were really passionate about PerformancePoint and the end-to-end message of Microsoft Performance Management may well look back one day and recall where they were when that (in)famous leaky post broke. When the official word finally came through, a few questions came to my mind.

Did PerformancePoint Planning really under-perform? Although this depends on whom you speak with, the issue is clearly one of software sales vs. solution delivery. Colleagues of ours who operate or work for Microsoft Partners in the U.S. have shared their problems in selling the PerformancePoint Planning module, while colleagues of ours in the U.K., South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have seen surging opportunities; in most cases the overarching reason was the unprecedented flexibility in meeting IFRS requirements. Meanwhile, the recent media release from Microsoft suggests that customers simply did not resonate with PerformancePoint Planning. What was your market experience (with customers and/or Microsoft) like with PerformancePoint?

Did Microsoft Partners, who developed marketing and operational strategies around the PerformancePoint platform, fail in their market research and planning? Let's look at the record books: 18-24 months ago industry research bodies had the business & technology world convinced that Microsoft was shaking things up in attacking the CPM market. Microsoft's competition must have believed this as well since they moved quickly in acquiring BI/CPM assets from smaller well-known companies, in order to provide their very own 'single performance management footprint'. Microsoft Partners, who watched prospects historically overlook Microsoft BI because it "couldn't do what Cognos/Business Objects could do", saw the opportunity to take the fight to competing Cognos and Business Objects Partners. "At last", certain Microsoft Partners probably thought, "now we have a full Performance Management suite too, and its compelling". Looking further into history, those Microsoft Partners who made big bets on what would eventually become SharePoint, SQL Server and Windows Server found sustainable offerings and generated significant wealth creation, delivering solutions in spaces that matched their passions. "Surely the pattern would hold true for PerformancePoint", they may have thought. Presently, Monday morning quarterbacks tell us that PerformancePoint was virtually doomed from the outset. What was your experience in evaluating PerformancePoint, the market opportunity it presented as well as your own readiness for the 'single footprint for performance management'? Would Microsoft have been so quick to bail on PerformancePoint if they didn't have to cut loose 5000 unlucky people? How did SharePoint perform in the early stages by comparison?

Was PerformancePoint Planning all too hard? Depends on whom you speak with. In our experience and those shared by our colleagues, Partners who truly understood how to speak the language of business, who understood accounting and financial concepts, who grasped sales and operations planning (S&OP), business strategy and performance management frameworks inspired customers and won successful engagements. To my mind, this was the point of PerformancePoint. Frankly, anyone could make a dashboard, but those Partners who really understood performance management to begin with really understood how much of an impact it could /and did have with CFOs, CIOs, COOs, etc. The goal of PerformancePoint Monitoring Server and Planning Server, in the end, was to help drive closed-loop business performance. Did you embrace PerformancePoint completely, or, did you focus only on one of the two server offerings in the suite?

Is the PerformancePoint Services strategy wise? If you saw 'Charlie Wilson's War' then you'll get what I mean when I say: "We'll see". In my personal (read: non-professional) opinion, I believe that by leaving Planning out of the integration strategy into SharePoint "Next", customers are probably more likely to look elsewhere for a complete performance management solution. I also believe that suddenly there is an inherent opportunity. Wise or unwise? Crisis or opportunity? We'll see.

And what about the Partners who have put it all on the line to help promote PerformancePoint as well as the many customers worldwide who have committed to the platform? Well, I can point to the words of fellow Canadian Alan Whitehouse. Chris Webb made a constructive point, too, in his parting shots. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the thought-leaders over at Adatis Consulting to weigh in.... :-)

- Adrian Downes

Update: I am informed that Alan Whitehouse is indeed American and not Canadian as I blurted out previously..... but that's still cool with me!


chris said...

There's another question I'd be interested to hear your answer on: was the technical implementation of Planning flawed? More specifically, was query performance and scaleability a big problem? I always had my doubts about the architecture.

Adrian Downes said...

I don't think PPS v1 was flawed so much as it was a v1 product. Goran Husman wrote that it usually takes MS three iterations/versions to get a product right; Following the model, SharePoint improved and SQL Server improved. There was plenty of constructive feedback from implementers and customers alike to drive improvements into what was going to be PPS v2.

MM said...

I think msft is giving up too soon. PPS planning is one of the best product in market, sure PPS v1(RTM) had some issues but in the long term it would have been best.
Most of the other offerings from competitors were bits and pieces put together which had lot of limitations, but PPS was built from ground up with solid foundation with so much flexibility and integration that neither Cognos/Hyperion or outlooksoft offers.
Adding a few new features will make it on par with competition and a great product and will have good pricing power(competitors charge millions for similar inferior product). Sure the market penetration will be slow and takes time but in terms of features its almost there.

they should reverse the decision.

Peter Eb. said...

Chris: I'd love to hear your concerns about query perf and scalability. What specific area do you have doubts about?

chris said...

Personally I didn't have any concerns, because I never used the product. But I did hear some complaints along the lines of those here:

My feeling is that SSAS has certain limitations which make it difficult to build financial applications such as Planning. Writeback is still too slow, and parent/child hierarchies are not only slow but also a pain to work with for calculations. If these problems had been fixed, maybe Planning and similar products would have been more successful.

Anonymous said...

Adrian totally agree with your point about PPS not being at all hard. If you had a business/financial background, PPS was a fabulous product...and your book was excellent...enabling me to pass TS-556..

Yes V1.0 had its quirks, but having been in the CPM market for nearly 15 years, with Oracle and Cognos, PPS was extremely good first effort...
Its flexibility and power was amazing..

With respect scaleability and peformance, trust me Hyperion had issues, ive seen 2 major blue chip companies rip it in favour of other products, after time spent and considerable consulting dollars...

Microsoft should seriously think about releasing the PPS code as a standalone open source project..It would be a crying shame to completely dump a potentially excellent product

Peter Eb. said...

Chris: no idea where that post you linked is coming from. Having the FRx people play a central role in the story doesn't make sense. Plus the planning addin didn't have drilldown. :) Only thing I can think of is that was a pre-release build. At RTM that data set didn't take that long in the addin to render or perhaps it was a VPC? Using the BI-VPC is not the fastest demo scenario.

That said I understand the PC hierarchy issue. AS2008 definitely made some big improvements for query performance overall, but I know that probably a lot of people haven't deployed it with PPS yet.

Anyway I'm not trying to make excuses, I just was looking for things I might still be able to take action on.

chris said...

Well, it was only hearsay anyway which was why I was interested to hear Adrian's thoughts on the subject. Since you're here though Peter, can you comment on the chances of MS open-sourcing Planning as proposed here:
? Microsoft is clearly not too hostile to the idea of using an open source licence:

Perhaps it's something you could suggest to your management? It would generate a lot of positive PR.

Anonymous said...

Thought I may share some of my recent experience with PPS, well like others, I couldn’t wait but felt itchy to leap on to SQL 2008 as soon as it released with the full version (not CTP), with PPS SP2, I was quite successfully playing on a latest HP DV7-1005TX laptop with Windows Server 2008. I must say that this latest combination of technologies outperformed its previous releases i.e. PPS with SQL 2005 etc. Needless to say that this damn thing will just fly over a 3 serves deployment.

Monitoring: As someone pointed out, monitoring is pretty straightforward for developers and consultants who earned bread and butter by designing BI solutions. It did offer some new exciting features such as AJAX stuff but mostly it will reflect all the hard work been done in the SQL backend .i.e. sourcing, cleaning, scrubbing, benchmarking corporate data.

Planning: Well, that's were we thought it was a bloody cold turkey break! BUT, without a lot of domain experience such as accounting, financial, retail business process and heavy functional involvement, PPS Monitoring did not make much sense to lot of consultants who predominantly came from computer science background. Such as what is Corporate Consolidation? How intercompany reconciliations are done? What is the statutory corporate reporting? How you forecast for example in large state government where monies are coming from Department of Treasury and then get distributed as their first Budget Paper (BIP) released and then subsequently phased out, revised and reforecasted. I have seen here around 70 people just working on Budgeting. It is far more complex in nature than we seen some glimpses in Contoso demo application. Anyway, the point is, PPS Planning just worked exceedingly well in my little setup. Writing back is not a big issue as it does not write back to cube but in the fact table, then cube gets processed. So the performance was just more than acceptable. Excel connection was fantastic compared to other non Microsoft excel add-in type of stuff. "Worksheeting" went just equally well.

It takes a lot more time cycles than Microsoft given it to it to be called a mature CPM product. Well, the product did not hang around over 14 months where a typical purchase takes around that time in a medium to large organisations.

Now I feel like formatting my new fancy laptop and make it a toy for my 1 year old at home !

Are there any possibilities that we could all together shake the Microsoft door or has the decision been already written in stone?

Regards. DP

Adrian Downes said...


Yours is an excellent idea that could have an impact if customers and Partners worldwide were to, for example, petition Microsoft to resurrect the product. I would expect there to be resistance in terms of the sales performance of PerformancePoint (don't hold your breath if you expect Microsoft to disclose the numbers), but, given that Microsoft got into the CPM space on the merit of listening closely to their customers (and, may I respectfully add, exited the market for the same reason), perhaps they could take such a petition more seriously....

Peter Eb. said...

On open sourcing Planning: (Here's where I remind you I'm not at a level where I would be involved in such a decision so this is all conjecture and not an official Microsoft position etc etc)

I'd like to see an example where Microsoft has open sourced a discontinued product. I can't think of one... (So if we set a precedent I want to see Flight Simulator open sourced too!)

I would keep pressing the official communication channels and account reps for a roadmap for Planning technologies. What technology investments are needed or what technologies to learn do customers and partners need to make for an eventual migration away from planning?

I'm treading a fine line here, not wanting to critique my coworkers too much. But I honestly feel the lack of roadmap is causing too much uncertainty and exacerbating the frustration of no more Planning. But I also recognize that pre-announcing things also complicates Microsoft's plans since to some degree things are always in flux. So let your account reps know you are not happy with the details. That it's not enough for you to run your businesses. Although unfortunately based on other blogs it doesn't look like good roadmaps are forthcoming....

Alan said...

The lack of any type of product /client / partner roadmap is my biggest single complaint right now along with not being able to get even simple questions answered. We are evening losing M&A opportunities now because we can't get official answers to legitimate questions.

To the speed issue Chris mentioned. PPS Planning could be slow if you didn't follow the hardware recommendations or if you did bad model design. Then again, so would any application. Give it the recommended horsepower and don't do a million things in a single model and you were fine.

And to Chris' other point about SSAS being a bad platform for this type of product and if it were different the product might have succeeded. The simple fact is that Microsoft did not give it enough time to succeed. Mirosoft takes a short-term view of sales [what can you close this quarter] and still doesn't understand the sales cycle for business applications or the market space.

By the way, I just re-read Adrian's post. Just to be clear. I am not actually Canadian, but just an American living in Toronto so I can have greater opportunities to experience bitterly cold winters and muggy sticky hot summers... ;)

Adrian Downes said...

Thanks to everyone for their feedback so far; the PerformancePoint decision has proved to be quite disruptive on a number of fronts, and there certainly are strong views on both sides of the issue.

Here are a couple of questions for everyone in this discussion thread:

Do you believe that the PerformancePoint decision is a sign that Microsoft is returning to core business by focusing on tools (for devs, admins and information workers) and operating systems over business applications (CRM, ERP, EPM, etc.)? Do you suppose that the Dynamics line is at risk as well?

ps. My apologies, Alan! I stand corrected... In any event, hope the weather isn't as cold in the 'mega-city' right now as my family and friends indicate!