But it is apparent from the announcements Wednesday at Microsofts Business Summit at its Redmond, Wash. headquarters that the company is still years away from having a truly integrated product set.
The development of a new generation of its Microsoft Business Solutions applications (now branded as the Dynamics product line), even with its integration with Microsoft Office through the Information Bridge Framework, doesnt solve or hide a fundamental problem.
The product line still looks like the mishmash of rather redundant products that Microsoft has acquired piecemeal over the past four years. Microsoft is still essentially pitching to midmarket companies four different financial and ERP product lines: Axapta, Great Plains, Navision and Solomon.
It has done little to rationalize these product lines besides providing better back-end data integration among them. How many different ERP products do small and midsize companies really need?
This leaves customers with the task of assembling a combination of applications, features and functions that will best suit their organizations, or relying on integrators and VARs to advise them on what combinations of applications and features are best suited for their operations. Customers are left wondering whether Microsoft is committed to supporting all these products into the indefinite future, or whether it they will be left to vote with their dollars on which products prosper and which ones wither on the vine.
The introduction of the Dynamics brand name doesnt cure the curious condition that finds Microsoft marketing products under the old brand names rather than under ERP product categories. Wouldnt it be better to be marketing these products under the companys own household brand name—Microsoft Financials, Microsoft Supply Chain, Microsoft Customer Relationship Management—as it does with all its other products?
Naming them Dynamics GP, Dynamic AX and so on does nothing to reinforce the product categories that they occupied when they were marketed by independent companies.
This is an advantage that all Microsofts competitors can take advantage of. Everybody knows that SAP and Oracle sell ERP software. The world knows that Siebel Systems or Salesforce.com sell CRM.
Microsoft hasnt solidified its identity as a company that sells SCM, CRM or financial management software in the same way it sells word processing, spreadsheet or project management software. When it does, Microsoft will have arrived as an ERP software vendor to be reckoned with in the small and midsize enterprise market.