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PPS Planning Being Discontinued

Posted by Alan on January 26, 2009

So needless to say I was a little shocked when the rumors I began to hear Wednesday turned out to be real with the formal announcement that was made on Friday.   My shock has since turned to anger and frustration.    

I decided to hold off posting anything until I had time to cool off and until we had our one-on-one call with some of the Microsoft executives in Redmond who run the BI arena.  My hope was to have some greater insights before I posted anything. 

Unfortunately the amount of actual valuable information we got today was ZERO.  Right now, they either don’t have any answers for us or don’t have any answers that they are able/willing to share.  This includes answers to really simple question that anyone who was in anyway involved in this decision should have been able to answer.  I wish I had more to share other than this whole thing has been and continues to be handled horribly.   My gut tells me that they didn’t think this thing through because a timely and rationally made decision would have involved being ready to answer basic questions and concerns.  I see none of that on Microsoft’s part. 

Our next call is with leaders in the Dynamics group on Wednesday to see if we can figure out what they are thinking.  I don’t hold out hope for that call.  Not because I don’t think they will hide anything, but apparently this whole thing was just dumped into their lap on Friday as well and how much of a plan can they have come up with in three days.  Our goal is to find out in concrete terms what it means to have a reinvestment in Forecaster or Enterprise Reporting. 

So for anyone who might care here are the rest of my thoughts on this whole mess:

I want to be clear that none of the following information is based on my conversation of today and is my own opinion and my own personal opinion only.

For me the decision to roll M&A into SharePoint 14 as PerformancePoint Services similar to Excel Services, Form Services or the upcoming Visio Services on the surface makes business sense.   The Monitoring components are all delivered to the end-user via SharePoint anyway so this isn’t much of a stretch.  However, adding it as part of a new Enterprise CAL, even if it carries a slightly higher price point,  really discounts the business value of the Monitoring components of PerformancePoint.  Basically, Monitoring is now worth what you pay for it.  So if you already are getting the Enterprise CAL then Monitoring is “free”.  I personally think this is going to hurt actual deployments of Monitoring in the long run.  The thought process being — if it was worth something and if it worked, them Microsoft wouldn’t be giving it away for free.  I have to believe that the other BI vendors out there (Hyperion, Cognos, Business Objects, etc.) will be playing up this message big time, along with the message that BI applications are only an afterthought to Microsoft.  I can’t say that I disagree.

I am still unsure of how the ProClarity Desktop components fall into the mix.  We all knew the ProClarity Analytics Server functionality was being rolled into Monitoring, but what about the Desktop components?  Last I heard they were going to see more of that in Excel.  But do you really think Excel 14 will be getting decomposition trees or heat maps?

And what of Management Reporter?  What is the future of Forecaster or FRx or Enterprise Reporter?  All items that have been mentioned casually but with no substance.  There are a huge number of unanswered questions still remaining.

But as you can guess the real shocker is the total discontinuation of Planning with no real explanation, no migration to another solution and no real statement of direction.  We get SP3, which means no new functionality, and then support until 2013.      

As a Microsoft partner I am angry.  The amount of time and money we have spend over the last 18 months on PerformancePoint to develop a practice focused on Planning was huge.  We had hoped to recoup our investment over the next few years but that isn’t going to happen.  There will be no new sales of Planning and anyone who can still hold off on implementation will unless they are insane.  Who in their right mind would buy a “dead” product when they have other choices, provided by major vendors, that are all being supported and continue to be developed? 

If I was a Microsoft client who has invested in PPS specifically for the Planning functionality I would be demanding all my money back.  Not just for the PPS software itself, but for the cost of new servers, new infrastructure software (i.e., SQL Enterprise, etc.) all the consulting that was spent to implement it, and the the internal costs of staff time as well.  I hope they all stand up and refuse to accept this lying down.

I think back to the BI Conference last October and how, as far as I can remember, Microsoft totally avoided any discussion of a BI or PPS roadmap.  I thought it strange then and now I really wonder if the decision on Planning had already been made at that time.

Now for me, it once again shows that Microsoft fails to realize that selling business applications takes time and it is not a commodity purchase.  I believe that Microsoft got into panic mode.  Sales were down, financial targets were going to be missed and company layoffs were happening for the first time ever.  They took a look at the PPS sales numbers of PPS and didn’t do any deep business analysis and made a bad decision.  Those of you who worked in the Dynamics space prior to the Microsoft acquisition of Great Plains Software and Navision understand.  People can’t adopt a budgeting (or ERP) system overnight just because a new one becomes available.  The decision to switch systems like these are tough ones to make, and not made overnight because of the ripple effect throughout the organization.  Then once the decision to switch has been made most companies of any size will go through an intensive evaluation process that includes RFIs, RFPs and numerous presentations.  Then once they decide on potential solutions, they need to slot a deployment that can be accomplished between budgeting cycles.  All of this takes time, especially coupled with the attitude that most people have that they won’t look at a Microsoft product until it releases its first service pack.  As a case in point, my latest client, who just signed last month began, their search process in October 2007 — that is 14 months from beginning of the search process to signing on the dotted line.  We have been promoting Planning since before it was actually released, and only now are we seeing true positive results.  This timing really sucks because for us, Planning was taking off like gangbusters. 

Final note.  Steve Balmer has repeatedly stated that Microsoft “eats its own dog food” in reference to PerformancePoint Planning and are using it internally.  I wonder what happens now?

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18 Responses to “PPS Planning Being Discontinued”

  1. DP said

    I initially thought it was kind of April fool joke, then I figured out we are not in bloody April yet! From now on, BDMs, Sales people won’t be able to market this product as no company would bother to buy “would be” discontinued product. Therefore, it would hit our ass hard as developers and consultants; we would need to focus on something else. All the efforts went into practicing this tool is now wasted because of Microsoft’s tomfoolery!

    I can’t believe all those gaga went in just before the PPS’s release last year, now started to fall on its faces!

  2. Flybridge said

    I agree.

    I think there were 2 reasons sales were slow taking off.

    1) Apologies to non-accountants, but they don’t often understand this type of application. I have been on the receiving end of non-accountants selling to an accountant and it is painful and embarrassing. You need accountants to sell this type of product and most consultancies don’t appear to have them in the sales/implementation team, thinking general BI experienced consultants can do it.
    2) Microsoft’s sales policy doesn’t help. Consultancies selling other applications (Cognos, BO etc) get commission for creating software sales. Microsoft consultancies don’t. If they gave commission to the consultancies actually making the sale, rather than some distribution organisation not involved in the sale at all, they may have got a better response from the consultancy community.

    They could have used the current economic climate as an excuse for deferring development costs (putting a spin on it), rather than admitting to killing it. At least that would have given more time to see if the sales momentum was picking up.

    Their comments about ‘broad’ and ‘narrow’ planning don’t hold true. The ‘broad’ planning of using Excel to create lower level budgets needs the ‘narrow’ level of planning/budgeting to control the inevitable spreadsheet hell that arises in these situations. You need an application to control the overall process. Just sending everyone back to spreadsheet hell is not a solution, even in the short term.

    Microsoft have effectively backed out of this space and left it to the vendors we all know. They will make huge capital out of this.

    And who is going to believe Microsoft the next time they announce a new ‘big’ product?

  3. [...] on PerformancePoint Planning from Alan Whitehouse On his blog, Alan Whitehouse takes a look at PerformancePoint Planning's cancellation and it's impact. Published: Monday, January 26, 2009, 10:33 [...]

  4. Juan Alvarado said

    I totaly agree. We are a MS partner with focus in peformance management. And we trust in MS also. We spend resources, time and money with PPS planning part. And now all this is a waste time and money.

  5. DP said

    Microsoft must face few law suits against their decisions. I wonder if corporate lawyers are not already doing so. Microsoft has well fabricated their reasons behind this decision but clearly they could not win the expensive up-hill battle against Oracle Hyperion and all other mature Corporate Performance Management specialist vendors. Even though, PPS is still considered one of the best CPM products by many veterans. As it is well pointed out by Flybridge, sitting on partner’s shoulder, Microsoft expects to enter the market without paying a penny.

    My consultancy in Australia was long talking with one of the large government department about a PPS prospect. We would probably be laughed out in public by other strong competitors such as Oracle.

  6. Matt said

    All of this has been amazing to watch and I feel for the partners, customers and employees who have been screwed due to the terrible management around this. Good luck with your call into Dynamics.

    I really haven’t heard any justification for the complete abandonment of the enterprise space. I can speak to the planning side and say that Forecaster will have as much difficulty in trying to scale up to the enterprise as PPS-Planning scaling down to the core middle market. They were designed from the ground up to address two, often conflicting purposes (Out of the box functionality vs. Flexibility). I have to question whether MSFT has anyone left to drive these ‘revived’ products who truly understand both the space and the products/where to take them going forward. The 4 Dynamics GLs don’t really appear to have a unified voice so it will be interesting to see how these products get integrated into the mix both organizationally and from a functional standpoint.

  7. Alan said

    Matt you are right that Forecaster would have an uphill battle. There is Enterprise Reporting and although it was mothballed before Forecaster it was more advanced at the time and would all for competition in the enterprise marketspace. Problem is getting a development team back to support it. It is one of my topics for my call this afternoon.

  8. [...] I was to offer up my feelings, they wouldn't be that far from Alan Whitehouse's excellent post on the subject although if I had an ounce of class about me, it would be much more aligned with Adrian's [...]

  9. why said

    Planning was a great module and was the real killer app in PPS. I can’t belive it. Microsoft marketing won in being able to turn bad news (cannibalization of PPS) into good news (merge with Sharepoint). Product strategy made a serious blunder. For your info, Planning had better potential than the old school planning apps today (Hyperion) which is just lipstick on a pig. Now MSFT won’t have a place in the CFO office. Tragedy.

  10. Makes no sense said

    Microsoft Consulting Services has not been doing a good job socializing these products, hence the poor sales. MCS is bloated with staff that try to speak BI but have .NET background. The BI thought leaders have left. What is going on over at Redmond. Please come back to your vision.

  11. Michael said

    I am one of those accountants that crossed over to the dark side of BI design and implementation. In previous lives I was a power user of many ERPS and have extensive experience on most every major OLAP product out there including Cognos Adaytum Planning. I, as both the analyst that manually created KPIs for years and as then the BI consultant that designed solutions to automate this work, know full well the issue of comparing actual results Vs Plan data. You can not run a company effectively unless you know what your KPIs ARE, what values they SHOULD BE, what values you are ACTUALLY INCURRING, and WHY there is a difference between target and actual. Furthermore, one must have the ability to drill down on KPIs across different dimensions, especially Product and Customer dimensions. The amount of time gathering, aggregating and then analyzing this data each month is staggering and completely repetitive. PPS promised to drastically reduce the time spent on monthly reporting when a well structured Plan was integrated with Monitoring. I am still in shock Planning was tossed into the garbage.

    The major issues in performance management I have encountered are twofold and both are related to the Planning side of the business. First, budgets are almost always swagged and done from a top down perspective. The budget will go through multiple revisions to hit a bottom line number the enterprise demands and all the inputs are either fudged to produce a bottom line result OR a one line adjustment is done to get to the bottom line. Now how the heck is one supposed to manage a business based on KPIs when the inputs on the target side have no correspondance to reality? The solution is build a plan from the bottom up and let the bottom line aggregate. If the bottom line is unacceptable, revisions are made at the DRIVER level of the models until the end result is achieved. Only then will aggregate planning data be meaningful at more than the total Entity level.

    Second, in the traditional Excel budget process you get the usual spreadsheet hell. For a decent sized company you are talking at least 1 dedicated head for half the year to build/maintian models, administer the workflow, consolidate the results and prepare reports. And the kicker is all the detail behind the final KPIs are locked up in a myriad of spreadsheets across the enterprise.

    PPS Planning had a compelling message: plan, analyze and monitor your business all at the same level of detail that you actually run your business. KPIs and dashboards would be meaningful down to the detailed dimensional levels . In short, true accountability could be achieved and measurement happened automatically, every day.

    Without Planning, that message can no longer be communicated to customers. MS took a huge step back IMO for abandoning Planning. Yes, the interface was not something the average corporate accountant could handle, but neither is Cognos. Lastly, I am embarassed for putting so much passion into this product to my customers. It took a lot of education and prodding to get customers to even consider implementing a Planning project and now I have considerable egg on my face. I have already heard “if the product was a great as you have been telling me, why did MS dump it”? My answer is that it IS a great product and MS is making a big mistake.

    Sorry for the long rant, but I had to get that off my chest.

  12. Alan said

    Michael,

    I fully understand the need to rant…

    Alan

  13. Dave said

    The functionality of the PPS will be rolled up into the Gemini project that they talked about at the October BI conference, but which they withheld the video from. That was the first thought I had as to the reason for killing the product. It is not gone only being repackaged with a new product.

  14. Matt said

    Did you hear this repackaging approach from within MSFT or is this your speculation?

    I would be stunned if the SQL Server team decided to own the PPS-Planning code and package it with their product but I suppose stranger things have happened. I think it’s more likely that we’ll see Gemini project people making claims that you will be able to accomplish many of the same things “User Scenarios” that you can do in PPS. That is much different than “repackaged with a new product”.

    1. No migration path for existing PPS-Planning customers (licensing doesn’t count). I may be a bit harsh with this as it may be relatively easy to reuse your PPS cubes.
    2. Minimal knowledge transfer for those companies that invested in learning how to sell, deploy and configure PPS-Planning.
    3. MSFT having yet another V1 solution for this space.
    4. Potentially different skill sets required to accomplish work between the two offerings.

    Since everything is moving closer to the database, when are we going to hear that reporting products are all going to be killed in favor of SQL Server Report Builder? Might as well get through all the pain at once.

  15. Alan said

    Dave. I would be curious as to where you get your information. Everything I have see points to Gemini being a data entry mining tool and not a budgeting tool. Plus data entry is only a small part of what PPS Planning did. How would things like cycles and data security be handled. You could do approvals and routings with SharePoint, but not the other two without a big new development effort. I know that Excel 14 will probably have cube write-back as a built-in function, but that is not a replcement for everything Planning did.

    Matt. I can’t see any group picking up the Planning code in full. However, I would love to see the Analysis Services group pick up the Modeler as a front-end for creating cubes. Lets cube creation move to more of a business analyst role rather than an IT only role.

  16. Michael said

    I’ve toyed with several obscure but very solid “cubebuilder” apps that use a GIU to connect to datasources and easily build fact tables, Dim tables, even do some ETL type data scrubbing, and build the cube in AS……without writing a single line of code. I was tempted to go this route awhile back as my technical skills at that point were low on the ETL side but my Business process/KPI/cube design skills were very high. I found all of these tools to be much better than Planning as a cube builder. I never did pick these tools up because they doubled the cost of an implementation.

    I see Planning as an “ERP” builder that happens to build cubes. The “ERP” envisioned by MS were budgeting apps, but I already played around with Plan to fill in OLTP gaps for clients. Planning can just as easily be used to build an Expense reimbursement or Capex requirements system as a budgeting system. Anywhere where the enterprise needed a structured work flow and lacked an existing system to handle it. Or just simply using Planning as a powerful modeling tool that can tap into detailed enterprise data. I even went down the rabbit hole to take the fact tables created by Planning and marrying them up with the existing fact tables of Enterprise cubes based on ERP actuals. Having a single cube go down to the granular level for BOTH actuals and budget….an analysts dream. It can still be done without Planning, but now all of the logic embeeded in the product would have to be hand crafted. A tough sell when there are so many dirt cheap apps out there.

    Can anyone give an overview of Gemini and this “in memory” storage of cubes I am hearing about? How does this technology work, specifically how does it differ from traditional OLAP? And wouldn’t this approach still require a Data Warehouse set up with Fact and Dim tables that traditional OLAP requires? And is this approach still based on a mutlidimensional/Matrix/OLAP Db or does it use CBAT instead?

  17. Indies said

    Indies…

    [...]PPS Planning Being Discontinued « Alan Whitehouse's Ramblings[...]…

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