Microsoft teams up to bolster BI

Comshare Inc. has teamed up with Microsoft Corp. in a partnership that will combine Comshare’s CPM (corporate performance management) software with Microsoft’s BI (business intelligence) platform to help companies bridge the gap between top-level strategy and operating budgets and forecasts.

Under the agreement, the two will combine Comshare’s CPM software with Microsoft’s SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services to offer organizations a flexible BI application designed to build customer reporting and analysis applications necessary to effectively manage the business, according to officials from Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Comshare.

Microsoft is perhaps the biggest player yet to enter to burgeoning CPM or business performance management space, which has attracted the likes of Hyperion, Cognos, Business Objects, Ascential, and other BI vendors in recent weeks who have added analytics to their reporting tools to extend BI data throughout the enterprise.

The technology is designed to boost BI data obtained through transactional systems to C-level executives who can leverage the data to measure operations against high-level corporate goals. The recent accounting scandals swirling around Enron and WorldCom have highlighted the need for executives to maintain a tight rein on financial data, according to analysts.

“We’re looking at a blessing of the space with Microsoft’s entry,” said John Van Decker, an analyst at Meta Group in Stamford, Conn. “We’re looking at a space that has been increasingly interesting to Global 2000 companies. They have implemented business planning solutions and are looking to close the loop. You’re seeing the ERP vendors recognizing this as the next important space.”

Companies that deploy the Comshare solution using Microsoft technologies will benefit from integrating planning, budgeting, forecasting, financial consolidation, management reporting, and analysis into a single system, according to Comshare officials. Comshare CPM and SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services help companies with OLAP to formulate and execute the strategic vision for the company, said Rod Radojevick, Comshare’s senior manager of product marketing.

“It really starts with setting their top-level strategies and then linking those down to their operational budgets or forecasts,” Radojevick said. “All the information will allow managers to make effective business decisions. We set high-level plans and link them down to individual managers’ desktops, making them responsible on an ongoing basis.”

While the CPM space is blooming with vendors touting their wares, these solutions must feature a marriage of operational functionality of an ERP system with the financial analytics, said Alan Yong, director of financial analytics for Aberdeen Group in Boston.

“The CPM value prop has to be deeply tied to a budget and planning application,” he said. “Microsoft wanted to get into the enterprise business applications market, and they were looking for someone who could bolster their existing SQL Server 2000 OLAP tool.”

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