At its Convergence 2006 conference in Dallas that ended March 28, Doug Burgum, senior vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, said a platform approach to ERP has been Microsofts vision for the past five years—one that started when the company began acquiring ERP companies around 2001.
"Our investments in Dynamics [are all about] taking Dynamics and turning it into a platform," said Burgum, during a press and analyst session at Convergence.
"We have a lot of elements in the marketplace, but the thing we always come back to [is what we started] five years ago. There always was a sense of uploading the platform—that partners use Dynamics as a platform to build [applications]."
Microsofts dream, according to Burgum, is to reach 40 million businesses that dont have the money to spend on technology, by providing a relatively inexpensive development platform.
"Its another manifestation of the democratization of software," said Burgum.
The initiative to build Dynamics into a platform appears to be a two-pronged approach at Microsoft.
The first is the work to combine the code bases of the four existing ERP suites—Great Plains, Navision, Axapta and Solomon—into a single services-based platform, recently named Dynamics. (That work, planned over two phases, is expected to be complete between 2008 and 2009.)
The second prong is to enable its partner channel through development initiatives.
With its Industry Builder program announced at last years Convergence conference, Microsoft is offering application support and code review for a select group of ISVs [independent software vendors] that develop modules in accordance with Microsofts quality standards.
"With the Industry Builders initiative Dynamics is becoming an ISV partner ecosystem platform," said Ray Wang, an analyst at Forrester Research.
"Even on [their] own, ISVs build upon the verticals and leverage more of the Visual Studio .Net tools and middleware [but] Dynamics will eventually become more of a stack or application platform."
The deal was first offered to those ISVs building vertical applications for Axapta (rumored to be the code base for Dynamics).
The plan now is to extend Industry Builder to other Microsoft Dynamics products this year, according to Craig McCollum, vice president of worldwide sales strategy for the Microsoft Business Solutions Group at Microsoft.
"Theres a lot of building going on," said McCollum, during Convergence. "Our biggest challenge is helping customers keep up with demand."
Five ISVs have gone live with Industry Builder solutions to date.
Forrester also points to the composite application development initiatives underway at Microsoft—Snap-Ins are an excellent example—that tie back to community development using Dynamics.