New and expanded offerings from Microsoft Corp. and J.D. Edwards & Co. promise to bring efficiencies to small and medium-size businesses that previously were limited to large enterprises.
At its Stampede partner conference in Minneapolis, Microsoft Business Solutions last week unveiled software for small retailers, professional services companies and other small businesses that automates daily business functions and delivers business-to-business transaction capabilities.
Business Solutions, which includes the Redmond, Wash., companys Great Plains and Navision enterprise applications businesses, as well as its bCentral small-business portal, showed off three applications—PSA (Professional Services Automation), RMS (Retail Management System) and Small Business Manager 7.0.
PSA, based on Great Plains Solomon Accounting software and Microsoft Project 2002, brings together resource management, project management, time and expense management, financials, and analytics into an integrated package, officials said. It is due next quarter.
RMS, available now, is built on Microsofts QuickSell product line and automates a retailers point-of-sale operations, inventory, pricing and promotions. A demonstration of Small Business Manager 7.0 showcased inventory control and streamlined sales and purchasing processes, officials said.
Microsoft officials at the show discussed the forthcoming beta of the companys B2B partner-networking software, MBN (Microsoft Business Network). Developed by the Great Plains software team, MBN is a data and document interchange network designed to connect suppliers to customers through HTML or XML.
The MBN beta is slated for delivery next month, with the final product due in the first quarter of next year.
Looking ahead, Microsoft said it will expand its small-business offerings with help from its Excel spreadsheet and SharePoint collaboration software. It also will develop business applications built on .Net Framework that will be available within three years.
Separately, Denver-based J.D. Edwards said it will integrate its array of enterprise applications with IBMs WebSphere Application Server and Portal, Lotus collaboration tools, and DB2 Universal Database—a move designed to make it cheaper to set up and run the applications.
The joint package, which will roll out over the next several quarters, will run Windows and third-party Unix platforms, but the tight integration means customers that want to use third-party middleware will still have the IBM software on their systems.
John Salaski, manager of application development for Hoffman Enclosures Inc., runs J.D. Edwards applications in an IBM shop but said he still believes the integration may mean some additional costs.
"To be quite honest, there is always more expense, but I think we can leverage our investment so its not from the ground up but incremental," said Salaski, in Minneapolis.