Teaming Up on Procurement

Microsoft's Great Plains unit, Clarus unite on integrated B2B package for small, midsize businesses

Small to midsize companies shopping for a Web-based e-procurement package will get a new option from Microsoft Corp.s Great Plains Business Solutions division, which last week teamed with Clarus Corp. to introduce an integrated business-to-business e-commerce solution.

The Great Plains eProcure software will integrate back-office applications from Microsoft with Clarus eProcurement, Fusion and View software in an offering that both companies are calling an end-to-end purchasing program.

The combined offering, which is slated to be available next quarter, provides a purchasing process for direct and indirect products and services, real-time purchase orders, and order processing.

eProcure will enable IT managers at small and midsize companies to automatically route purchase orders to the appropriate department based on price, category, job classification or other qualification. This will reduce purchasing bottlenecks and time-consuming, paper-based processes, as well as help companies reduce the amount of spending that is done outside of negotiated purchasing deals with suppliers, according to officials at Clarus, of Suwanee, Ga., and Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash.

The Great Plains Dynamics, eEnterprise and Solomon IV back-office applications, which Microsoft got in its acquisition of Great Plains Software Inc., of Fargo, N.D., earlier this year, automate financial and operational processes at small and midsize companies.

Clarus eProcurement software automates purchasing from sourcing to payment. Fusion is Clarus integration framework. View provides analysis of purchasing activity, such as spending trends and supplier performance.

The Chamberlain Group Inc., of Elmhurst, Ill., uses Clarus e-procurement software hooked into an SSA Global Technologies Inc. back-end ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. However, since SSA went bankrupt last year, Chamberlain is on the lookout for a new ERP system.

Ken Clay, vice president and controller at Chamberlain, said he will consider an ERP system like that offered by J.D. Edwards & Co., which integrates easily with his AS/400 infrastructure. But Clay will also consider the Great Plains offering—particularly since its been bought by Microsoft, which is expected to infuse some life into Great Plains overall ERP offerings.

"Our [ERP search] process is going to take two years. In that time, Great Plains could develop that more," Clay said. "I wouldnt want to be a beta site, but the fact that its young wouldnt concern me." He is particularly interested in an ERP package that doesnt require much customization. "Customization has the problem of later on, when you go to upgrade, you have to upgrade all that customization," he said.

Microsofts eProcure is going head-to-head with the likes of ailing e-commerce services provider Purchase Pro Inc., of Las Vegas. That company helps businesses sell goods and services online to other businesses. Purchase Pro, which is facing a rash of lawsuits from shareholders claiming executives released misleading financial information, has teamed with AOL Time Warner Inc. to co-develop a business exchange.

eProcure will be available through Great Plains network of more than 2,200 channel partners and will also be deployed through application service providers certified by Great Plains.