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.