Microsoft Corp. and NetSuite Inc. are trying to attract potential small- and midsize-business customers with upgrades to their respective business application suites that give users greater control.
Microsofts Great Plains 8.0, released last week, provides some 120 enhancements targeted at distribution, manufacturing and project accounting. In addition, usability enhancements are included throughout the suite.
Version 8.0 brings the software deeper into the Microsoft fold through integration with the Redmond, Wash., companys Office 2003 and Portal 2.5 software. Great Plains 8.0s user interface is tailored to have a look and feel similar to Microsoft Offices Outlook 2003 e-mail client. The Office integration also allows users to attach maps and directions from Microsoft MapPoint to documents. The Portal integration provides new modules for online requisition management, expense entry and approval, and electronic delivery of sales documents, officials said.
Microsoft also upgraded Great Plains analytic capabilities by adding Microsoft Business Solutions for Analytics—FRx 6.7, bringing enhanced reporting and currency translation features.
"Some of the menu systems, the navigation, look to be a lot better [in Version 8.0]," said Great Plains user Jay Todd, chief financial officer of Service Thread Manufacturing Co., in Charlotte, N.C. "The advantage of that will be ease of use; the detriment will be retraining of a number of people." Todd said Great Plains 8.0 offers attractive features in its handling of financial information. But he said his company may not upgrade for a while because it has customized manufacturing and inventory components of its Great Plains 7.5 deployment.
Meanwhile, NetSuite, of San Mateo, Calif., last week announced that Oracle Small Business Suite is going away—the name, that is, not the software. The hosted software developer, which has branded its family of small-business applications with Oracles moniker for three years, is changing the softwares name to NetSuite Small Business. Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison remains the majority shareholder in NetSuite.
In addition, a new NetSuite approach will let customers add capabilities to the software without affecting the entire installed base, said NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson. Version 10 of the suite, due in September, will include upgrades to core business automation modules, officials said.