PeformancePoint dropped

That’s it, PerformancePoint Server is dropped as of now – Planning is being dumped entirely and Dashboarding / Scorecarding is being incorporated as a free add-on to Sharepoint.

This kind of makes my wrestling getting the product installed a bit of a waste, but such is life. It’s disappointing to see the Planning go – it wasn’t perfect but it had a very user friendly interface in Excel 2007 – though less so for developers at the back end.

From a BI point of view it makes sense – Planning is still very much a niche application, and doesn’t sit well with the “BI to the masses” philosophy that Microsoft are trying to market. But I bet there’s a lot of annoyed consultancies who had staked their future on PPS.

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Installing SQL Server 2005, 2008 and PerformancePoint 2007 on Windows Server 2008

A bit of a mouthful of a title, but I have discovered in the process of trying to build some Virtual Machines to play on, that the above four pieces of software are not always friends.

A clean install of PerformancePoint Server 2007 (PPS) against SQL Server 2008 (SQL2K8) is not directly possible, even at PPS Service Pack 2 (SP2). There is an approach documented on TechNet which involves installing some SQL2K5 components (See scenario 3 of this article: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc514367.aspx) but I couldn’t get it to play ball. I would guess that PPS2007 won’t properly integrate with SQL2K8 for a while yet, so if you are installing PPS2007, do it against SQL2K5 SP2.

Next up, SQL2K5 won’t install cleanly on a vanilla install of Windows Server 2008 (Win2K8). You need to enable the Web Server Role, and then enable features as described in this KnowledgeBase article (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/938245/) – it’s not complicated. It also throws up a warning to patch SQL2K5 to SP2 when running the installer, but I would advise you did that on any install anyway.

Installations are never easy!

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PerformancePoint Server

One of the reasons this BI Monkey has been quiet of late is because he’s been digging into the Planning side of PerformancePoint server, mostly watching the official training videos (http://www.microsoft.com/business/performancepoint/resources/training.aspx), following the tutorials within and trying to understand EP (Enterprise Planning) for the first time. PerformancePoint also encompasses Scorecarding and Dashboarding, and actually that is probabably its main function, but like SSAS smuggled OLAP into many businesses via SQL Server, PPS is probably in part a trojan horse for EP.

So what is EP? To me – until about a week ago – it was an ugly thing in Cognos (like that’s a surprise) that our EP consultants dealt with, talking about Dimensions in a distinctly non-BI way and running jobs that ate servers like Godzilla munches Tokyo. Now I have seen the light. It provides a flexible framework for controlled data entry. At its very core, that’s all it does.

However move away from the core and you see the beauty of how this works – the main application of PPS Planning is for financial planning – allowing users to fill in budgets and create forecast models in Excel 2007. “Big Woop”, you might say, “all our accountants do this already”. What PPS adds is to centralise and standardise the data storage, so that all this planning and budgeting isn’t spread across everyones hard drives, with conflicting numbers, versions and quirks on each persons copy.

It wraps on to this the ability to consolidate different models up into higher level ones – so many divisions could have their own budgets – even down to individual users handling only their responsibilities within each budget, with their own approaches, but the output can be rolled up to a corporate level. This is controlled by cycles, approval processes, auditing – all the usual accounting guts. Plus applying business rules to calculations – a simple example could be that you could get HR to plan headcount – and HR’s planning models could then calculate expected associated salary spend – which they wouldn’t neccessarily see – which can then roll up into the corporate budget.

From a geek point of view, it functions as a web service that backs on to SQL Server and SSAS – making it easier to put your companies real data into the models as well. There’s alot of good stuff in PPS, and as I get to grips with it, i’ll tell all. For now i’m just a bit overexcited at just how cool this is.

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