Microsoft Outlines Its Vision for the People Ready Business

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2006-03-26

Microsoft Outlines Its Vision for the People Ready Business

DALLAS—At its annual Microsoft Convergence conference here in Dallas this weekend (and into early next week), Microsoft officials will pound home the message that Microsoft is working to enable the "people ready business" by investing in all kinds of technology, from a unified communications platform that includes a voice infrastructure to composite application development capabilities.

"Its about breadth and depth and seamless activity across domains," said Jeff Raikes, group vice president of Microsofts Information Worker Business, during his keynote address March 26.

"Weve spent several billion on a wave products coming to market in the next 12 to 18 months."

Raikes gave the example of several areas Microsoft is investing in to bring home its vision for its Business Solutions applications division: business intelligence to pull insights that already exist in systems; search to help users quickly find information; mobility to work in different styles; customer relationship management and supplier relationship management to streamline processes; and in the infrastructure to support the technology developments.

All well and good goals, but when it came time for the members of the audience to ask questions during Raikes keynote, they werent asking about building composite applications or getting VOIP enabled.

Attendees at this years conference are still, it seems, bogged down with the basics.

Allan, a user representing Unified Fruit Service, asked Raikes and former MBS head Doug Burgum (who joined Raikes on the stage for the Q&A session) what the purpose is of moving to a single product name—Dynamics—for Microsofts four very separate ERP suites, and if that means the company is moving to a single code base for the products—a message Microsoft has been hammering on for the some time.

"Part of the purpose of going to a single name [is to leverage] the strength of Microsoft, to create an awareness of categories; with a global name we wanted to be able to talk about what we would provide," said Burgum.

"A lot of people arent even aware that Microsoft offers business applications."

Next Page: A common point.

A Common Point

Apparently, some customers arent aware yet of Microsofts basic premise of Dynamics—moving to a single code base that enables roles-based computing.

"[The name change] does signify that we have an end point out in the future, where we are going to move to a common point," said Burgum.

"Whatever product you are on today, you keep doing the upgrades and you will end up at a converged product down the road."

Microsoft began talking about converging its separate ERP suites—Great Plains (GP under the Dynamics brand), Navision (NAV), Axapta (AX) and Solomon (SL), along with CRM—a few years back when it introduced the concept under the code name Project Green.

Then, last year at this conference, Microsoft officials reworked Greens fundamental concepts of Green and renamed the effort Dynamics, which breaks down into two separate development waves.

Click here to read more about Project Green.

The first wave, which Microsoft is firmly ensconced in now and extends through 2007, looks to develop a common user interface across the suites and begin the integration of products based on role-based experiences.

The applications will also be integrated with SQL Server Reporting and Office, for business intelligence capabilities in a familiar environment.

"Were halfway through that," said Raikes. "Weve shipped CRM 3.0 and GP 8 and [the next version of] SL. Within the next year well ship GP 10 and SL 7."

Raikes said Microsoft is also well into the development of wave 2 that extends into 2008 "and beyond" (two major delays—Microsoft Vista and Microsoft Office—were announced this week; its still up in the air as to whether those delays will effect Dynamics in the future).

Read more here about Microsofts delays with Vista and Office.

Wave 2 includes making the core business logic of the applications model driven, so that the user interface will be reflected in a business process, and continued work on the role-based activity development.

All that innovation aside, customers still have elemental requests.

One woman stood up and said: "We have 37 companies on GP, next week well have 38, then 39. We need a headquarters function that will let us sit on top and let us consolidate things….when a vendor calls, we have to go into every company to find them," she said.

"Put that on your to-do list to make GP more scalable."

Another customer from Global Quality Corp in Cincinnati wanted to know if he should continue to invest in GPs tool kits, given the changes expected with Dynamics.

"Well support [the tool kits] through 2013, so if you think thats a time frame to invest…there will be enhancements moving forward," said Burgum.

"But the Web services were shipping in GP, you can be confident they will be supported for a long time moving forward."

Finally, a man stood up—apparently a Microsoft partner—and asked the question thats been on a lot of peoples minds: Can Microsoft compete in the world of Software as a Service given development issues, as some pundits suggest?

"Thats what those guys want you to think," said Burgum. "Its bunk. Those guys like to say software is dead [on demand leader Salesforce.coms motto], but there is no reason Microsoft cant do both, and we will do both. Well give [users] the ability to choose. If you want to run CRM on-site, thats great. And if you want to run CRM in the cloud, thats great."

Burgum said that while some of the players out there "want you to think otherwise, we have another vision."

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