Microsoft Dynamics (formerly Microsoft Business Solutions, or MBS) is holding its annual Convergence conference this week in Dallas, and it is now shooting for a 2009 date to introduce the successor product to its five enterprise applications products.
Four of the existing Dynamics products--formerly known as Great Plains, Axapta, Navision, Solomon--came through acquisitions Microsoft made over the past five years. The fifth, Microsoft CRM, was built from scratch by Microsoft.
Microsoft's convergence plan, once known as "Project Green," has suffered a series of setbacks and redefinitions over the past two years. The most recent definition was that the converged product would be introduced in waves, the first wave being the introduction of "role-based user interfaces" to the existing products, which Microsoft is now introducing incrementally.
But the goal line for migration to a single code base is moving farther away. According to an article in Managing Automation
Specifically, [MBS] officials said this week, they no longer feel it is feasible to build a converged product line on top of a single, common data model.
It may be necessary, according to Mike Ehrenberg, architect for Microsoft's MBS products, for the software giant to use different data models and different tools for different implementations of the converged enterprise application product to suit customers at different-sized companies with different levels of experience.
Five "differents"--sounds like different products to me, which is what Microsoft has today--not a converged product.
The article continues.
Also, Ehrenberg said, prior to the release of a converged enterprise application product, Microsoft has decided not to spend time and resources on tightly integrating its Microsoft CRM product with the current Dynamics AX (Axapta) and Dynamics NV (Navision) ERP suites. Those products, Ehrenberg noted during a general session, already have built-in CRM functionality. Forcing current customers to switch, he said, "would be seen as a take-away."
Microsoft is still determined to get to a single, converged ERP product operating on a converged code base. "But," Ehrenberg said, "we have a significant amount of work to do."
One associate of mine, commenting in an email regarding Microsoft's announcement, had this to say:
- Microsoft finally realized and admitted they have a problem with not understanding how enterprise applications (and data models) are designed, purchased and used. It is much different then shrink wrapped apps.
- Microsoft has little experience in major upgrades to enterprise apps, so they have no migration experience. Anyone buying Dynamics now will be faced with a traumatic and complete new implementation ahead, in about 3-5 years.
- Microsoft is not focusing on improving the functionality of the current product line. They are just doing the minimum to look like they care.
- To shift focus from the above three points, Microsoft is aiming the marketing and product plan at “productivity” instead of “functionality,” pushing “mashed up“ applications that have lots of stuff (email, video, etc.) integrated. Nice marketing plan for the Tier 1’s but don’t think it will sell to the majority of the SMB’s. I'm waiting to see the first RFP that requests a RSS feed into accounting or manufacturing.
To be fair, I think my associate's assessment is a bit harsh. The four products that Microsoft acquired were good systems in the past, and they continue to be good choices backed by the deep pockets of Microsoft. They aren't going away, in contrast to some other small vendors whose viability is questionable.
Nevertheless, organizations that are considering these systems should be buying them based on the functionality that they offer today and not pinning hopes on some set of features or functions planned for the future. As seen this week in Dallas, the goal line keeps moving out farther and farther.Related postsMicrosoft: Project Green to appear in wavesMicrosoft fuzzes up the definition of Project GreenMicrosoft to put enterprise applications on the auction block?Is Microsoft dying?Microsoft eats more humble pie in enterprise software businessMicrosoft slowing down Project GreenMicrosoft: selling enterprise software is a "humbling experience"