There are two things you can say about business performance management (BPM). The first: You are soon going to be hearing a lot about it. The second: If you thought you couldn't afford it, wait a little. BPM may just start getting cheaper.

You can credit Microsoft Corp., the Redmond, Wash., software giant, for that. Microsoft is not a name normally associated with BPM, but the company plans to be–and in a big way, when it introduces Performance Point sometime in the next 12 months.

BPM–or enterprise performance management (EPM), as some people prefer to call it–is a set of computerized solutions, increasingly Web-based, which are designed to give senior finance executives the forward-looking tools that will allow them to plan, analyze markets, make budgets and do scorecarding, using real-time data from across the organization. It is becoming increasingly common in large companies, and even smaller enterprises are looking to BPM as a way of improving profitability in an ever more competitive and unforgiving marketplace.

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