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1/12/2011
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Microsoft Extends Dynamics AX for Retailers

App-spanning ERP system gains new interfaces, new workflows and a broader geographic footprint.

Microsoft announced Dynamics AX for Retail R2 on Tuesday, a significant upgrade of a specialized ERP platform introduced only last August. The update adds role-specific interfaces and workflows and support for additional languages and currencies that will extend the platform to 50 countries, up from 16 previously.

The Key appeal of Dynamics AX for Retail is the breadth of its capabilities, which include point-of-sale, store management, supply chain, merchandising and financials.

By doing away with the integration work that would otherwise be required to knit together what are typically separate applications, AX ensures a more responsive and connected retail enterprise, according to Microsoft.

"It's obviously very expensive to integrate disparate applications, but more importantly it's time-consuming and difficult to make changes," said Crispin Read, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics ERP.

Retailers have to be responsive in today's competitive retail environment, Read said; AX integration helps them be more agile. Because AX point-of-sale (POS) capabilities are connected to the back-office, for example, you could have a headquarters promotion decision that would not only alter pricing, it could also modify the layout and prompts at POS terminals across stores with just a few clicks.

Set for release in February, the R2 upgrade introduces Headquarters, Store Manager and Store Cashier interfaces designed to expose the right information to the right people for better, faster decision making. These Retail Role Centers expose task-specific data, metrics and reports that can be customized by administrators and users.

Loyalty functionality has been beefed up in the R2 release to improve insight and centralized program management. With loyalty programs linked to POS functionality, managers get real-time insight into program activity across stores, regions and the total enterprise. Program status is updated instantly so customers don't have to wait to make use of points earned.

Store operations improvements in R2 include assortment and item-management workflows said to improve productivity.

With many retailers going global, R2's support for 34 additional countries is crucial. Key new markets supported include Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

Earlier this week Microsoft announced that its entire Dynamics AX platform will see a next-generation "6" release in the third quarter. The upgrade will introduce a model-driven architecture intended to speed software development and minimize the need for coding by ISV partners and customers. In another faster-time-to-value advance, AX 6 will have pre-built interoperability with Microsoft SQL Server, Visual Studio, Microsoft Office and SharePoint.

A preview release of AX 6 will debut next month, but industry-specific products such as AX for Retail won't move to the new platform until after its Q3 general release.

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