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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Microsoft pushes out the goal line for business apps convergence

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:
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Microsoft is not focusing on improving the functionality of the current product line. They are just doing the minimum to look like they care.

  4. 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 posts
Microsoft: Project Green to appear in waves
Microsoft fuzzes up the definition of Project Green
Microsoft to put enterprise applications on the auction block?
Is Microsoft dying?
Microsoft eats more humble pie in enterprise software business
Microsoft slowing down Project Green
Microsoft: selling enterprise software is a "humbling experience"

by Frank Scavo, 3/30/2006 01:52:00 PM | permalink | e-mail this!

 Reader Comments:

I can't help but agree with your associate's last point regarding their addition of productivity enhancements instead of functionality. In listening to an interview with Mike Ehrenberg [1] on Channel 9 I felt that their main direction was derived based on watching users do their day-to-day work. Although the intent is admirable I think it ignores the fact that potentially, much of an employees wasted day is because of inefficient business processes instead of poor integration between ERP and MS Office.
I think Microsoft's "Business In Motion" [2] initiative is a whole lot more promising when it comes to enhancing business performance than anything else coming out of MBS. What's curious is that this "Business In Motion" concept has been on-going for five years and has had pretty much no publicity.

[1] http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=175509

[2] http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=164859
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