Microsoft Delivers New BI Accelerators

Is Microsoft testing the waters as an analytics applications vendor?

Microsoft Corp. could be testing the waters as an analytics applications vendor. Last week, the company released two add-on toolkits for its Office and SQL Server products. The new toolkits, Office Business Scorecards Accelerator and the Office Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services, are part of Microsoft’s Business Intelligence Accelerator product family.

BI Accelerators are nothing new for Microsoft. The software giant shipped version 1.0 of its SQL Server Business Intelligence Accelerator in May of 2002 and updated it again in June of last year. But the Office Business Scorecards Accelerator breaks new ground for the software giant, says Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with consultancy Current Analysis. “The Business Intelligence Scorecards Accelerator is an analytic application and could represent a vehicle for Microsoft to test the waters toward becoming a BI solutions vendor,” he writes.

One potential problem: Microsoft currently partners with several BI vendors that market Balanced Scorecard solutions for Microsoft platforms. The upshot, Schiff notes, is that “Microsoft must tread carefully and walk a fine line between cooperating and competing with its BI solutions partners.”

That said, there’s evidence that established purveyors of Balanced Scorecard solutions have little to fear from Microsoft—right now, at least. The scorecard accelerator is based on the Balanced Scorecard metric paradigm, to be sure, but is available in only a single language (English) and has not yet been certified by the Balanced Scorecard Collaborative. Either omission is enough to remove it from the short lists of many prospective buyers, notes Schiff.

The Excel add-in is designed to allow business users to access and analyze live multi-dimensional data in SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services from Excel 2002 or Excel 2003. The toolkit also provides technology to help users create customized reports, Microsoft says.

Both accelerators leverage a healthy dose of Microsoft product offerings. The scorecards accelerator, for example, requires SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server Analysis Services, Office 2003, and SharePoint Portal, while prerequisites for the Excel add-in are Analysis Services and Excel.

Schiff says that means the new accelerators should find their best use in predominately Microsoft shops, which is as it should be: “In a Microsoft shop, this is a major strength; in a non-Microsoft shop, this is a major concern.”

Links:

Scorecards toolkit:
http://www.microsoft.com/office/solutions/accelerators/scorecards/default.mspx.

Excel-SQL toolkit:
http://www.microsoft.com/office/solutions/accelerators/exceladdin/overview.mspx

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.