Will Microsoft’s Maestro Leave Developers Behind?

It’s a good bet a market is on the verge of going mainstream when Microsoft starts paying attention to it. So when the software giant last week announced its first business performance management offering, code-named Maestro, some folks took that as confirmation that BPM as a mainstream technology practice has arrived.

As a client front-end tool, Maestro is a departure from Microsoft’s developer-first, toolkit-centric approach to doing business intelligence.

It’s designed to support baseline scorecarding—via metrics such as key performance indicators—along with other BPM capabilities. “The target audience…is companies who want to gain better insight into the business and financial trends that impact their organization, as well as companies that seek a better way to align objectives with employees' daily activities and those that require business transparency,” explains a Microsoft spokesperson.

The BPM space is already heavily seeded with competitors, including Microsoft partners such as ProClarity and established giants such as Cognos. Nevertheless, Microsoft thinks it has a trump card to play: Maestro’s tight integration with the ubiquitous Office suite.

The question, of course, is whether Maestro, by delivering a set of canned, turnkey BPM capabilities, leaves developers in the dust. In the past, Microsoft focused on outfitting developers the tools to build custom solutions based on SQL Server’s BI stack.

The software giant ships several BI “Accelerator” kits that make it easier for programmers to build analytic solutions on top of SQL Server, or to embed analytic functionality in Excel. Maestro is a more or less pre-fab product deliverable. It can be customized, but it’s also designed to function as an out-of-box BPM solution.

So as Microsoft fleshes out its BI portfolio, will enterprise developers, systems integrators and partner ISVs be left behind?

Far from it, officials protest. Microsoft says Maestro will be a boon to developers and ISV partners. “Partners will have the opportunity to quickly expand their business into new areas with minimal investment,” says Microsoft, noting that ISV partners, systems integrators and developers have a key role to play in integrating Maestro with back-end information repositories. “We're trying to help expand the pie for everyone through the platform and tools we provide with Maestro.”

Microsoft partner Panorama Software last week announced a new Maestro-based offering, dubbed Symphony. Panorama, which markets a SQL Server-only BI platform, says Symphony will tap the infrastructure provided by Maestro to support advanced scorecarding capabilities.

For enterprise developers, Maestro should be an improvement over Microsoft’s existing canned analytic offering, a scorecarding Accelerator for SQL Server. That product, says Cindi Howson, a principal with BI consultancy Analytic Solutions Know-how, is dismissed by some as a toy. In this respect, Maestro, which Microsoft positions as a BPM framework—complete with accessible APIs—should let programmers incorporate BPM functionality into sophisticated custom or line-of-business applications.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor. He can be reached at [email protected].