Home on the Range? Despite Great Plains strong product lineup, analysts say the company faces several cultural challenges. For starters, its unclear how Great Plains management will react and perform under Microsofts firm guiding hand. Rivals note that Great Plains has been an indepen- dent company for 20 years; some employees could experience culture shock under Microsofts win-at-all-costs management style. "Youre talking about a massive Metropolis buying a small-town company," says the CEO at one Great Plains rival.
Its a bit like New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani trying to govern Walnut Grove: Sooner or later, the residents are going to revolt.
Microsoft is aware of the risks and plans to be a gentle giant—at least for the next few months. Much like IBMs handling of its Lotus acquisition, Microsoft will position Great Plains as a nearly autonomous software division. The Great Plains division will develop, market and support its own software, while embracing Microsofts .Net strategy.
Great Plains partners welcome that approach. Just ask Shared Healthcare Systems (SHS), a Windows NT and SQL Server software developer that is integrating its products with Great Plains software suites.
"Great Plains has been a wonderful partner so far," says Mike Raymer, VP of products at SHS. "But one of our long-term concerns was Great Plains ability to move from client/server to .Net. Now, after the Microsoft deal, I cant help but think theyll be a poster child for .Net."
Thats certainly Microsofts plan. As the so-called Three Amigos focus on Great Plains day-to-day operations, look for Microsofts Raikes to act as a .Net intermediary between Ballmer and Great Plains Burgum.
Sources say Raikes was one of the key drivers behind the Great Plains buyout, and hes no stranger to Fargo, N.D. "Jeff [Raikes] has been out to Stampede—our partner conference—a few times," says Great Plains Uecker-Rust. "And he was with us the day of the Microsoft [buyout] announcement."
Raikes, a 20-year Microsoft veteran, has a knack for being at ground zero during key industry events. The night Microsoft released Windows 95 to the public, Ballmer was riding shotgun in Raikes BMW in downtown Seattle. The duo was visiting retail stores to gauge early Windows 95 sales. Surely, Raikes will have Ballmers ear as Microsoft brings Great Plains into the fold.