Microsoft wants to make ERP capabilities more attainable for small and midsize businesses using Office.
The Redmond, Wash., software maker's latest ERP offering for SMBs, code-named Project Madeira, is now available as a public beta in the United States. The service delivers an embedded ERP experience within Office 365.
"Project 'Madeira' connects business processes with the productivity tools in Office 365 to help small and medium-sized businesses grow sales, manage finances, and streamline operations," said Marko Perisic, general manager of Microsoft Project Maderia, in an April 11 announcement. "Project 'Madeira' is a true multi-tenant public cloud service (software as a service) running on Microsoft Azure. Customers can access the service on the Web, or using apps for Windows, iOS, and Android devices."
Project Madeira is slated for general availability in the United States sometime in the second half of 2016.
The service piggybacks on familiar Office applications, particularly Outlook, to ease SMB users into the world of ERP software and reduce the need to switch between apps to complete tasks. In Outlook, for example, Project Madeira can automatically scan for invoices and quote requests. If one crosses a user's inbox, it contextually displays the relevant information along with the tools that allow workers to act on it within the Outlook application.
"If you know how to use Office, then you know how to use Project 'Madeira,'" Perisic said.
Project Madeira was designed to fill a gap for SMBs (10 to 100 employees) that are outgrowing their accounting tools but aren't quite ready to jump into the custom ERP waters, added Perisic. Beyond its base functionality, independent software vendors, or ISVs, are building industry-specific extensions and other add-ons.
To familiarize users with Project Madeira, the preview offers access to a demonstration company along with guides that urge them to explore the product's core capabilities and tasks, including viewing reports and creating sales invoices. Assisted set-up tools allow users to tailor Project Madeira to their organizations. Users can migrate business data from Excel or QuickBooks; assign tax area codes for automatic sales tax calculations; and set up email, email logging and Office add-ins.
Logging in with the mobile app allows users to view their business data, including invoices, sales quotes and key performance indicators (KPIs). The app integrates with Office 365 to share data between Office apps and supports camera image capture and sharing.
On the analytics front, Microsoft has released a compatible content pack for its cloud-based business intelligence visualization tool, Power BI. The content pack includes seven reports and updates daily after Power BI is linked to a customer's Project Madeira account.
Project Madeira follows the October 2015 launch of another cloud-friendly ERP offering for SMBs, Dynamics NAV 2016.
Like the newcomer, Dynamics NAV 2016 integrates with Office 365 and Power BI. The software also works in tandem with Dynamics CRM Online, Microsoft's cloud-based CRM platform, enabling SMBs to link their customer service and sales workflows.