Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, at the companys first European-based Convergence conference that kicked off in Munich Nov. 6, is working hard to show that Microsoft is on top of the tech revolution—at least when it comes to offering its enterprise resource planning technology on demand.
During his keynote address on the first day of Convergence, typically an ERP-focused conference held in the United States, Gates announced that the Dynamics suite of applications is going live—as in Microsoft Live, the companys answer to the on-demand movement.
Microsofts Live initiative is based on a future where desktop applications are augmented with add-on, online services.
While the company has announced a bevy of Live services (mostly in beta now) around its Office and Windows offerings, its taking smaller, almost-baby steps with its Dynamics suite of ERP software.
At closer look, the Nov. 6 announcement boils down to Microsoft providing a subscription model for its partners to host Microsofts ERP software.
The new licensing model—part of Microsofts Provider License Agreement program—will let Microsoft customers subscribe to a partner-hosted version of Dynamics separate suites—GP, NAV, SL or AX—on a monthly subscription basis.
The ERP hosted subscription offering fits in with a company-wide effort at Microsoft to on-demand just about everything under the roof: Microsofts operating system, database, SharePoint server, Office Exchange and Microsoft Live Communication Server.
But its stopping short of offering Dynamics on demand—at least for now.
Microsoft is in the midst of rewriting its four ERP suites into a single services-enabled code base which will be available under the Dynamics umbrella sometime in 2008.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been available as a hosted application since last March.
The on-demand, or Live version of CRM, is expected in the second quarter of 2007, and in North America initially.
Partners will have early access to the CRM Live services in the latter half of 2006.
With Project Titan, the next iteration of Dynamics CRM 3.0—the Live version—Microsoft is building out multi-tenant capabilities for its on premise, on-demand and hosted version; essentially they all have the same underlying code, with the data tier rewritten to interpret multiple databases.
Microsoft plans to host the CRM Live applications in its own data centers for a monthly fee; in the past the company looked to the channel to provide hosting options for customers.
During his Nov. 6 keynote address Gates discussed a big challenge the company perceives as facing companies today: maximizing productivity to bridge the last mile between personal productivity software and backend business systems.
“Business applications should make companies more agile, but in practice this often isnt the case,” Gates said.
“While a decades worth of software innovation has transformed the workplace, linking the work people do every day directly into business processes is still too complicated.”
Gates said the Microsoft Dynamics solutions—a branding effort to bring together Microsofts disparate ERP and CRM suites—will help “connect people and processes so businesses can empower their employees to work with greater speed, effectiveness and intelligence.”
Gates vision for Dynamics in the Live era, outlined in his keynote speech, includes deeply integrating the ERP suite with the Microsoft Office system, and in turn integrating both with online services.
Key elements of that vision include online business services from Microsoft and its partners.
Examples include the marketing, sales and services processes that will be available in CRM Live.
Additional services Gates outlined include Microsoft adCenter integration that will enable Dynamics CRM to create online marketing campaigns that put keyword advertising on MSN—though not on Google, where most of the Internet ad dollars are spent.
An eBay integration service allows Dynamics AX users to use eBay as an online sales channel.
Microsoft plans to work with partners to build out additional online processes in areas like analytics and collaboration.
The latter area will include processes that let users connect their processes to customers, partners and suppliers.