Microsoft Introduces Major Great Plains Upgrade

Microsoft says it is following an "aggressive" upgrade path as it introduces a major new version of its Great Plains Enterprise Resource Planning suite barely a year after the previous release.

ORLANDO, Fla.—Microsoft Corp. detailed its latest Great Plains release and talked about a development roadmap for the manufacturing and accounting Enterprise Resource Planning suite at its Convergence 2004 conference here Monday.

Coming just after a 7.5 extension release last spring, Microsoft Great Plains 8.0 is the companys biggest ERP development effort to date, according to Karen Engel, group product manager with the Global Product Management group at Microsoft.

"The timeline for Great Plains: Aggressive," said Engel, during a Great Plains information session. "Our development team barely gets a breather and we barely get a breather between input in cycles and revving in six-month development cycles."

Microsoft officials also discussed "Project Green," an effort to create a new code base to integrate more tightly Great Plains, Navision, Axapta and Solomon.

Expected this summer, Version 8.0 adds a new user interface, new Business Portal applications, streamlined business processes, improved visibility and better integration with Microsoft Office.

The new user interface moves away from the old style of pull-down menus to a more Office-like look and feel, according to Kevin Lehoullier, vice president of finance at Arthur Schuman Inc.

"The interface with palettes and subwindows is gone," Lehoullier said. "Its a dramatically improved interface."

Lehoullier, who previewed 8.0 at the conference, said the Business Portal is better as well—to the point where he may switch to an in-house application to Microsofts. The new portal functionality in 8.0 include a human resources management self-service suite, a requisition management project time and expense module, and an electronic-document delivery capability.

The more-efficient processes within 8.0 make it easier for users to track and manage supply chain and manufacturing data and processes, Engel said. Additional features include capability for better picking, "cradle-to-grave" serial/lot tracking, and graphical bills of material.

Improved visibility makes it easier for users to create reports for electronic delivery and have more drill down capabilities within financial applications.

The improved integration with Office also means users have the ability to tap Microsoft FRx, a financial analysis and reporting tool that integrates not only with Great Plains, Solomon and Axapta, but also with 25 outside Enterprise Resource Planning applications. An FRx integration to Navision is in the works, ac-cording to Chris Scherpenseel, president of FRx Software, which is part of Microsoft Busi-ness Solutions.

For releases beyond 8.0, Microsoft is focusing on simplifying the suites transactional processes, adding enhancements to the reporting functions, enhanced government compliance capabilities and adding features for prod-uct and services businesses, Engel said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Be sure to add our Linux news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page: /zimages/4/19420.gif