Gone finally is the Project Green code name for Microsofts metamorphosis of its four midmarket business application suites—Great Plains, Axapta, Solomon, Navision—and in its place is the new commercial name for the combined suites: Microsoft Dynamics.
At its Microsoft Business Summit event in Redmond, Wash. Wednesday, Microsoft Corp.s founder and chief architect Bill Gates outlined the concept behind Dynamics: Enabling business users to utilize applications based on very intuitive role-based interactions and editable business processes.
What that means, in theory, is that users—say a CFO—will be able to log into a personalized homepage within an accounting application that is defined by his or her role within an organization.
That homepage, similar to a dashboard but with a Windows user interface, will enable the CFO to access data across applications, and share that information with colleagues and partners.
"Dynamic speaks to specific architectural capabilities—things that are unique [to Microsoft] that we do not see in our competitors environments. These are roles based in a deep sense," said Gates, during his keynote address.
"The very interface you see is driving off role-based definitions, with a richer connection to Office than any application in the past. And we will make extensibility capabilities available broadly."
The Dynamics re-branding also means that the current suites monikers will also morph.
Microsoft CRM, for example, is now Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Great Plains becomes Dynamics GP; Axapta becomes Dynamics AX; Navision becomes Dynamics NAV; and Solomon becomes Dynamics SL.
In its roles-based approach to business applications, Microsoft is initially focusing on five process areas: operations, sales and marketing, finance, IT infrastructure and a general area where processes like personnel scheduling span across departments.
Within that framework, it will hone in on 50 scenarios that users can manipulate to fit their job description.
Like Project Green—which sought to unify Microsofts disparate suites under a single code base—the build out of Dynamics functionality across the applications is laid out in two phases, or waves.
The first wave, expected in 2007, will share common client technology and be integrated to Office. It will include some role-based experiences, Sharepoint integration and SQL-based business intelligence functionality that enables reporting from a contextual user interface.
This first wave will also include Web services based application components.
The second wave, due sometime around 2008, will include models of all the business processes Microsoft intends to focus on. Enhanced Visual Studio .Net tools will enable users to go into any event and customize software.
An enhanced user experience and a process model that combines the best processes from each separate release are also planned.
The underlying role-based technology of Microsoft Dynamics will be evident in the upcoming releases of the suites.
Microsoft CRM 3.0, due in October, will include rich formats and data integration that enable users to drive processes from a single screen, according to Gates.
"We believe that by taking business processes and making them very visual, very explicit, people can edit processes and see status of processes. We can do something thats quite different than ever before," said Gates during a keynote speech.
"But we also believe that by connecting into the world of personal productivity, we can also do something very different," Gates added.
The Dynamics approach appears to be a sound one for Microsoft. By utilizing Windows as the user interface, Microsoft is tapping the experience of its 400-million-strong installed base.
On the back end, Dynamics applications will utilize Sharepoint portal services, SQL Server database functionality, .Net integration capabilities and Visual Studio development capabilities.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done to make this whole concept fly.
"This is a challenge for Office to step up, a challenge for the overall platform to step up," said Gates. "[Weve made] a huge commitment to business applications. And theres lots of ambition in the space."
With its focus on the midmarket specifically, Microsoft is facing some heavy competitors with SAP AG and Oracle Corp. moving steadily downstream from their initial enterprise focus.
At the same time both companies—the worlds largest and second largest business applications providers, respectively—are in the process of re-architecting their application suites and underlying infrastructure to a service-oriented architecture.