Microsoft Outlines ERP Strategy and Road Map

Redmond giant schedules updates for all four enterprise resource planning product lines over next 12 months

Redmond giant schedules updates for all four enterprise resource planning product lines over next 12 months

Redmond, WA — June 18, 2004 — Microsoft Business Solutions this week announced ongoing investments to enhance its enterprise resource planning (ERP) product lines, all four of which are scheduled to see updated releases over the next 12 months.

The ERP lines offer financial management, supply chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM) and business analytics functionality. Over the next year, all four product lines — Axapta, Great Plains, Navision and Solomon — will see significant upgrades, the Redmond software giant said.

The product strategy for these solutions involves five technology themes that the ERP products will center on moving forward: Best Total Cost of Ownership, Adaptive Processes, Empowered Users, Connected Business and Insightful. Each technology theme is intended to address a fundamental area in which a business application meets a customer need, Microsoft said.

"Business managers tell us they have a core set of operational requirements that they are concerned with above and beyond individual product features," said Satya Nadella, corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions. "These five product development themes transcend our individual product lines and focus on providing customers with holistic solutions to their business problems."

Microsoft said it has worked closely with customers — for example, through a customer beta program — to define requirements for these development themes. Michele Holsinger, information systems manager at Microsoft-client Stulz Air Technology Systems, said that participating in opportunities like the customer beta program has allowed Stulz-ATS to directly and positively influence Microsoft.

"We've worked with forthcoming enhancements, particularly those made to the Microsoft Great Plains user interface, and it is rewarding to note that these product improvements are a result of our feedback," Holsinger said.

Katherine Jones, research director with Aberdeen Group, said the strategy Microsoft Business Solutions employs to develop and deliver multiple ERP products is essential to meeting the needs of today's largely underserved and fragmented global mid-market segment.

"Core financial management functionality is critical, of course, but it's equally important to go beyond that and provide customers with choices that can be made according to their own unique business needs and circumstances," Jones said. "This need for choice is particularly prevalent in the ERP market for small and midsize businesses. Here you see a whole range of demands for customization versus out-of-the-box, versus industry specialization, and so on. It's a dynamic need that can't be offered by a single solution, so flexibility is key."

Microsoft said that Axapta supports advanced manufacturing and supply chain management in addition to core financial management for the upper mid-market segment and for divisions of large organizations or multinationals. Axapta 4.0 is scheduled for release next year. Meanwhile, Great Plains offers mid-market segment businesses cross-industry financial management. Great Plains 8.0 is scheduled to be available beginning in June.
Navision is also known for cross-industry financial management for the lower mid-market to mid-market segments, as well as its facility for accommodating the unique business processes of the local market in which it is implemented, according to Microsoft. Navision 4.0 is slated for release later this year.

Solomon provides financial management, with particular strength in the areas of project management and accounting and distribution; the solution targets organizations in the United States, Canada and Mexico, Microsoft said. Solomon 6.0 is scheduled to be available beginning in July.

For more information on solutions for mid-market enterprises, see "Stuck in the Middle" in the April/May 2004 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.