Completion of Microsoft Corp.s Project Green initiative to bring its four business application suites together on a single code base is still two years away, but the company is already trying to standardize some features across the line.
At its Convergence conference here last week, officials of the Redmond, Wash., company discussed existing and future application extensions and add-on modules it is calling Surround Applications. Similar to Project Green, Surround Applications such as Microsofts Customer Relationship Management and MBN (Microsoft Business Network) provide functionality that spans all four of the companys suites: Great Plains, Navision, Axapta and Solomon.
Surround Applications under development will add analytics capabilities across the suites and will more efficiently output third-party information, officials said. For instance, a development project called Navision VIP looks to increase the amount of information that can be imported into a back-end business applications suite by using Web services to connect to third-party sources of information. Navision VIP will be used as the basis for adding functionality to MBN, Microsofts business-to-business hub.
"Well leverage the way [the developers in Navision VIP] designed and thought of how the user would derive information from the back office, how to trigger something that would ship out a purchase order from the back end [for example]," said Julio De Villasante, group product manager with Microsofts Business Solutions Industry Solutions group.
Microsoft announced last week that it is adding EDI (electronic data interchange) support to MBN, which is integrated with the Great Plains applications. MBN 2.0, due in the first quarter of next year, will add that support for users of Microsofts Axapta and Navision applications.
MBN helps companies connect with customers and partners to exchange documents electronically. It also acts as a repository by consolidating business documentation in digital form, officials said.
Kevin Lehoullier, vice president of finance at import company Arthur Schuman Inc., welcomed the EDI support in MBN, which he beta tested.
"Its almost like EDI through [Microsofts] Outlook, without having to pay the bits to" an EDI network provider, said Lehoullier in Fairfield, N.J.
With one buyer on board with MBN, Lehoullier plans to expand that by two additional midsize customers early next month. But he said the service wont appeal to bigger customers. "Youre never going to force the Wal-Marts [Wal-Mart Stores Inc.] to do what you want," said Lehoullier. "They drive innovation with supply chain; youre never going to get Costco [Wholesale Corp.] and Wal-Mart to use MBN."
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