Microsoft Announces Business Platform Integration, Updates

Microsoft kicked off its Convergence 2010 conference by announcing that two of its business-software platforms, Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, would be integrated to connect their respective business intelligence and productivity tools. In addition, Microsoft executives also announced that Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online would receive a variety of updates in May. Microsoft is attempting to make inroads into the SMB (small and midsize business) market with its Dynamics GP, an ERP platform for midsize business, even as it faces competition from other end-to-end business platform providers such as Oracle.

Microsoft kicked off its Convergence 2010 conference in Atlanta with the announcement that Microsoft Dynamics GP, its ERP platform for midsize businesses, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, its enterprise-management platform, would be integrated to connect the two systems' business intelligence and productivity tools. In addition, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will receive several new updates in May, including availability in Spanish, French and Brazilian Portuguese.

That combination of platform integration and updated tools seems particularly targeted at Microsoft's competition for the SMB (small and midsize businesses) market, at least according to one analyst.

"The latest investments highlight the priority in winning the small to midmarket and taking market share from Epicor, Exact and Sage," R. "Ray" Wang, an enterprise-strategy analyst with the Altimeter Group, wrote in an April 24 posting on his "A Software Insider's Point of View" blog. "More importantly, the integrating [of Microsoft Dynamics GP] with Microsoft CRM now provides users a full suite of critical end-to-end business processes required to managing a small- to midmarket organization."

With the May update, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will feature expanded language support, portal accelerators that include Event Management and Partner Relationship Management, developer tools such as a SDK (Software Development Kit).

"The true competitive differentiator for Microsoft is the value customers derive through a consistent and world-class user experience and well-designed interoperability across our solutions," Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, wrote in an April 25 statement. "Our upcoming Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM releases light up this philosophy by delivering solutions that work well together and take advantage of existing IT investments."

On April 20, Microsoft unveiled Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010, an ERP platform for midsize businesses that includes business-intelligence reporting tools and interoperability with Microsoft Office Unified Communications and other software. The platform also streamlines approval scenarios for daily workflow, such as allowing a warehouse manager to detect any depletion in supplies and re-provision with a few mouse clicks.

Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 also offers 350 integrated Web services, and will be generally available starting May 1. In a bid to encourage adoption, Microsoft will allow Microsoft Dynamics GP customers to obtain a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online license for a monthly fee of $19 per user, as opposed to the standard $44.

Microsoft has been positioning its online CRM offering as the alternative to cloud-based competition from the likes of, including add-ons and Accelerators designed to help businesses pull information from social networks and Web interaction channels. Oracle and other rivals have also been building out their business-intelligence and management-platform offerings, with Oracle in particular engaging in a rapid cycle of releases.