Microsoft tunes up for BI market with Maestro

Microsoft Corp. is extending its reach in the business intelligence market with a private beta release of a server-based scorecard application intended to help organizations monitor and manage objectives.

The new application, code-named Maestro, builds on the technologies originally released last year in Microsoft’s Office Business Scorecard Accelerator, the company said Tuesday. That product is a Web-based application that allows users to view data from disparate sources and create corporate and departmental scorecards.

Maestro also offers a broad view of business data that companies can use to create scorecards for projects and initiatives, but it is more closely tied with the Microsoft Office System. It allows users to monitor business goals with analysis tools such as charts and graphs and features a collaborative environment for sharing information.

Microsoft wants Maestro to be a scalable application, allowing independent software vendors and systems integrators to build custom applications with additional analysis tools. A public beta of the software will available in coming months. Final pricing and availability has yet to be set, the company said.

The Redmond, Washington, software vendor expects corporate performance management to be a growing market in coming years, growing from US$520 million in 2003 to $900 million by 2009, it said, citing figures from researcher Gartner Inc.

Separately, Gartner said in a recent report that improving business processes was a top priority for many companies and predicted that they would invest in applications that would offer further insight into technology investments they have already made.

Microsoft and Gartner aren’t the only ones predicting a bright future in business intelligence (BI). Business Objects SA unveiled its Business Objects XI (Extreme Insight) software earlier this year, offering integration with Microsoft’s Office, and SAP AG has added BI tools to its Business One small business productivity suite.

But Microsoft’s ability to tie BI tools into its nearly ubiquitous Windows platform is definitely an advantage, according to RedMonk LLC analyst James Governor.

“One of the biggest challenges in IT is distributed data and this is an example of a tool to help you get over that,” Governor said.

The software maker has already had success incorporating a reporting tool into its Microsoft Operations Manager, which reports server status and health by sending alerts, Governor noted.

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