Before I start, I want to say I have a lot of respect for the MS development people, and many of those in MSC. But Microsoft, you have a fundamental disconnect with what is real and what you're moving towards.
After hearing of the layoffs and the the end of Performance Point:Planning (I'm not entirely pleased with Performance Point as an end-user multi-dimensional data consumption tool), I started thinking more about the product and features MS is marketing. I've also been recalling encounters with MCS people brought in to provide an optimal "solution" or fix an issue with something with SQL Server or Sharepoint or Biztalk (the areas that I know). In almost every instance (almost), I see MS marketing, product development and consulting very out of touch with what people really need. Initially when Bill et alia started MS, no one knew what to do with computers, so they needed to very much steer the technology to show how it can drive business. I believe we've reached the turning point with technology and business. I understand that when MS comes in to a company, they're focused on their product and their product alone. What needs to change - look at the business.
So what does a buiness really need (and we'll stick with databases since this is SQLBlog):
- A business usually needs dire help organizing, managing and understanding its own data: One truism that most of us know is what a business asks for and what they really need are often two very, very different things. This entails not simply performing tasks but asking questions like "Why do you need this data? What questions are you trying to answer or what are you hoping to learn?" Then the true need often reveals itself.
- A business needs people that truly understand their data: I'm not talking just about the data structure of the database, but the business meaning of the data, and what I usually refer to as the "application" meaning - how is this used or exposed in an application? This starts us down the road of Master Data Management, which MS is far, far behind in facilitating tools for this. Yes, there is something they acquired, but it is slow in coming and looks to me to be "cookie-cutter". Right now my best tool would be Excel or another SQL database...
- Instead of buying a really generic tool like Sharepoint or Biztalk (or SQL and all it entails), a business needs to understand how these tools can be used to improve their business: I don't know how many times I've run into a SQL BI implementation with no thought into how it can really help the business - the assumption is the business knows. The same goes for Sharepoint (an information nightmare if not organized consistently) or Biztalk (usually overkill). Seldom does anyone selling or installing the product take the time to discover what might be useful for the business.
- A business needs a way to quickly consume their data: I'm sorry PerformancePoint (and Proclarity) - you aren't cutting it. PerformancePoint is basically Proclarity rehashed - I believe if Proclarity was still in business they would have a had a new, more intuitive, useful version of the product. And things look now that PerformancePoint is close to the chopping block. Excel? Excell services? Um, no. If anyone has used some other data visualization products, you can see what is really possible from multi-dimensional data.
What's the common theme here? Business understanding is necessary for a successful product. It's time MS starts thinking this way and stop trying to assume a business process with any of their products, or assume a business understands how to use their own information (or even what it means). Does that mean MS needs to have a business consulting wing? Maybe. But the days of "here's our product, buy it and all will be well" are long, long gone.
Anyone disagree? Am I drunk or insane?