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Commentary on the Planning Road Map from the Dynamics Group

Posted by Alan on March 25, 2009

Right now the Dynamics group within Microsoft “owns” Management Reporter and is currently responsible for any future budgeting/forecasting/planning solution that will come from Microsoft.  During Convergence 2009, the Dynamics group finally released their road map to the world.

To help set this up, I think a brief history lesson is in order.  For many years the Dynamics group supported two budgeting/forecasting products — Forecaster and Enterprise Reporting.  You can think of them as little brother and big brother.  Forecaster had pre-build budgeting models and parameters you worked within and therefore the deployments were quick and easy as long as those parameters worked for your business.  Enterprise Reporting could be considered an predecessor to PerformancePoint Planning.  You built models from scratch and could ultimately do more with them, but it took more work to complete a project.  Both of these products were “mothballed” in favor of the new corporate wide CPM solution from Microsoft — PerformancePoint Server.  Basically they had ceased new development on both products and were only providing support.  In fact, they had gone so far as to actually take Enterprise Reporting completely off of the price list. 

Now my understanding is that the Dynamics group was pretty much blindsided by the announcement just like the rest of us.  And since it is pretty tough to sell an ERP package to larger clients without some sort of planning capabilities, you can surmise how important this future road map is for them.  I was lucky enough to see a preview of their road map about 3 weeks ago, but was under NDA so couldn’t comment at the time.  Now that everything is public, I am free to shoot off my mouth.

For the rest of this post, please keep in mind that this is my interpretation of the information presented and I may have missed or misunderstood something.  Also keep in mind that Microsoft has been known to change their mind suddenly about planning applications and all of this information could be totally different next week or next month. 

So here is the upcoming calendar of events as I understand them:

CY2009:
Management Reporter v1 is available in its current form, but has no native integration to any system or GL.  Data can be populated from PerformancePoint Planning or by populating the financial data mart within the product.  Forecaster 7.0 and Enterprise Reporter are available to be purchased by Dynamics clients and are supported by Microsoft.

CY2010:
Management Reporter v2 will be released for Dynamics ERP clients.  It will be “decoupled” from PerformancePoint and the financial data mart functionality will be removed and direct integration at a GL level with Dynamics GP, AX, NAV or SL will be available.  The availability date will be in conjunction with the next release of the associated ERP package that is being utilized. 

CY2012:
Management Reporter v3 will be released and with it simple (i.e., Forecaster level) budgeting functionality will be incorprated into the product as well as consolidation capabilities.  Sometime in 2012, the ability to purchase Forecaster will be eliminated and all Forecaster customers moved to Management Reporter. 

CY2014:
Management Reporter v4 will be released with it the additional of complex budgeting  and customization capabilities (i.e., Enterprise Reporting/PerformancePoint level??).  This would include being able to perform non-financial budgeting based on information found in the ERP system (and hopefully outside systems).  Sometime in 2014, the ability to purchase Enteprise Reporting will be eliminated and all Enterprise Reporting customers will be moved to Management Reporter.

So what do I think of all this? 

I think it fantastic news if you are a Dynamics client or a Dynamics implementation partner who currently does not have a planning practice.  If you are not a Dynamics client or were a partner with a PerformancePoint Planning practice then this news pretty well sucks.

The big winners here are people using the Dynamics products line and who can wait for 3 to 6 years to implement a budgeting solution.  In a couple years they will have access to a brand new product, using the latest technologies, that has super tight integration with their Dynamics ERP package.  And those who either are currently invested or soon to be invested in Forecaster or Enterprise Reporting will (most likely) be getting the new solution for free as long as they are current on their software maintenance plans.  Granted, there will be some trade offs — the solution will not be integrating with any other systems they may have in place,  it will probably not be designed to scale to huge implementations (as Dynamics products are geared mostly towards the mid-market) and nothing will be available for 3+ years.  But for Dynamics clients this is going to be a good thing and the Dynamics group has put together a good plan for them.  

The big losers here are non Dynamics ERP clients and PerformancePoint Planning partners.   In order to even buy the product you will have to be an active Dynamics user.  This is more than a licensing issue as you could always “work” the system and just buy a single user for GL with extra Management Reporter user licenses.  The real issue is that it appears that all of your source data (i.e., accounts, actuals, etc.) will have to be Dynamics based (at least until v4) and this will shut out a huge number of potential users.  Couple that with a 3+ year development cycle and PPS partners like ourselves have no other choice to look at other options.   

The company I work for is TGO Consulting and in addition to our CPM/BI practice which was primarily based on PPS we also have a CRM, BPM and a Dynamics practice.  Our client base is primarily upper mid-market to low enterprise with a few large enterprise clients thrown in f0r good measure.  For some of our Dynamics clients Forecaster will fill their needs just fine and we will continue to implement it as well as implement Management Reporter when it becomes available.  However, for many of our clients it just is not robust enough to do what they really want, nor are they willing to wait 5+ years to get the functionality they need. 

Over the last year we had also made huge strides in building a pretty big sales pipeline that consisted of dozens of very large organizations whose ERP, HRIS and operational systems ran the gamut of what is available in the market.  None of their needs can be handled by Forecaster.  So what do we do?  We could look at picking up Enterprise Reporting and offering it to those prospects, but I am having trouble seeing how that makes business sense for us.  Enterprise Reporting has not see substantial (if any) development in the past 7 or 8 years,will not see any new development in the foreseeable future and will be obsolete and shelved within 5 to 6 years.  Hell, it took us 18 months just to get good at PerformancePoint Planning.  

Unfortunately, I think the writing is on that wall that to continue our CPM practice we are going to have to look outside of Microsoft or the Dynamics group.  To that end we are currently evaluating 3 or 4 potential solutions that are out in the marketplace.  We are doing our due diligence on products in terms of features, functions and futures as well as seeing what the developer can offer in terms of customer and partner support.  Some of the solutions that we are researching are produced by ISVs that have developed on top of the Microsoft platform and some are direct competitors to Microsoft in more ways than one.  We are taking our time to make sure we make the right decision but hope to have our direction finalized in 30 to 45 days. 

As soon as we finalize our go-forward solution for budgeting/planning I will let everyone know.

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5 Responses to “Commentary on the Planning Road Map from the Dynamics Group”

  1. Matt said

    Great recap. I’m very interested to hear your plans for planning going forward as well as what products were not selected and why.

    I’ve stated my skepicism on Microsoft and Planning for years so I won’t repeat again. But it’s interesting to me that the MR team is taking the exact opposite approach from when they were part of the PPS Planning team in that they are going to develop pre-built modules (like Forecaster) ahead of having a framework (like ER). V1 of PPS planning was very much a framework with the intent for V2 and beyond to have out-of-the-box modules either built internally or by the partner channel. I suppose this could be due to having the Forecaster code simply packaged with the MR install going forward rather than try to re-write Forecaster functionality.

  2. Alan said

    If I had a quess as to why the change in philosophy I would say it was due to the fact of the market they are now charged to serve. When they were Management Reporting for PPS and going after the complete CPM marketplace then a framework over templates meant you could do more things and hit a larger potential market sooner. Now that their mandate is just Dynamics clients, given the average size of those organizations, pre-built models will be more attractive to a vast majority of them (pre-built equating to perceived less dollars to have to spend) rather than a framework. Again, just a guess.

  3. Carl said

    Hello Alan,
    It is true that Enterprise Reporting not has seen development for some years, but the concept and the functionality of the product is actually very good. It really gives you the flexibility you need for complex planning and consolidation tasks. With some minor changes and development efforts from the Dynamics group, Enterprise Reporting could again be a very modern product. Let’s hope that the product responsables are aware of this fact and that they will make the neccessary investment in the product. I am absolutely convinced that it would be worth it. I would highly recommend that you take a very close look at ER in your due dilligence process. If you need any information and insights about the product we would gladly help you out.

  4. Alan said

    Carl,

    No arguement that Enterprise Reporting has a lot of functinality today and can meet the needs of most organizations including very large ones. I have worked with three clients on implementation of it. I nd guess it really comes down to to few major concerns we have about going the ER route:

    1. Will the product be unfairly categorized and perceived as a mid-market only type package since it is coming out of the Dynamics group? If so, it will make sales to new large (i.e., upper mid-market to low enterprise) clients far more difficult. AFter all, perception is reality.

    2. Since Management Reporter seems to be the future based on their roadmap, how much investment in ER can we expect to happen?

    3. Will this whole MR rolling in additional FRx, Forecaster and ER functionality over time mean we have a new great product or will we have another “Project Green”?

    In many ways, Microsoft is asking us to trust them again and we all know where that got us the last time out.

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