Microsoft just released Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 Community Technology Preview 2 (CTP2), bringing it one step closer to the final release. In my December commentary, 'Tis the season for CTPs: PerformancePoint Server 2007 CTP1" (InstantDoc ID 94693), I talked-up the first CTP of Microsoft's performance management application server, Office PerformancePoint Server 2007. In the commentary, I peeled back the onion a bit and explained exactly what PerformancePoint Server is and how it integrates with SQL Server, SharePoint, and the Microsoft Office System. Microsoft is aiming the final release of PerformancePoint Server for around September. Until then, techies should understand Microsoft's business-user goals.

Because PerformancePoint Server is a performance management application, it helps to understand what Microsoft is shooting for with this kind of product. In its October 2006 article "Understand Performance Management to Better Manage Your Business," Gartner describes performance management:

"\[A\] combination of management methodologies, metrics, and IT (applications, tools and infrastructure) that enables users to define, monitor, and optimize results and outcomes to personal or departmental objectives while enabling alignment with strategic objectives across multiple organizational levels (personal, process, group, departmental, corporate or business ecosystem)."

With this description in mind, Microsoft has forged PerformancePoint Server as a comprehensive product that aligns with an organization's performance management goals by providing Monitoring, Analytics, and Planning functionalities.

PerformancePoint Server CTP1 was all about the integrated beta release of the next versions of Business Scorecard Manager (BSM) and the ProClarity analytic platform--the Monitoring and Analytics parts of the PerformancePoint Server platform. PerformancePoint Server CTP2 is all about PerformancePoint Server's third component (formerly known as BizSharp), the financial consolidation and forecasting piece aptly named Planning. The Monitoring and Analytics parts of PerformancePoint Server still seem like tools or the building blocks for applications, whereas the Planning sub-product is truly an application.

Microsoft describes PerformancePoint Server as a business-driven application that brings functionality and value to people (i.e., users at all levels within an organization). PerformancePoint Server Planning focuses on identified Planning, Modeling, Reporting, and Consolidation features.

With Planning and Modeling, business users define, modify, and maintain logical business models that are integrated with business rules, workflows, and enterprise data. Then, information workers can interact with and continuously contribute to the business processes of planning, budgeting, and forecasting from an Excel client.

With Reporting and Consolidation, business users define their own view of the business and distribute templates and forms in a timely fashion with greater accuracy. Then, users can combine operational data and financial data into the same report rather than stepping through painful manual data reconsolidation. Information workers can build, customize, and share production-quality reports from Excel while connected to a secure and centrally managed server.

For more information about PerformancePoint Server, see the Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server sub-site. Or if you're a Microsoft partner, check out the portal for the new Information Worker Solutions competency Performance Management specialization. There you can grab the "PerformancePoint Server 2007 Customer Ready Presentation," which covers a lot of the information this commentary explains but in more depth. And finally, if you want to start working with PerformancePoint Server CTP2 you can download it from the Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server Web page.