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10/18/2004
11:14 AM
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Microsoft Upgrades Navision ERP Suite

The vendor says the upgraded software is easier to use and helps companies control finances.

Microsoft on Monday announced the first major upgrade to the enterprise-resource-planning suite it acquired when it bought Navision in 2002.

Microsoft Business Solutions' Navision 4.0 is designed to give small and midsize businesses greater control of their financial and operation processes. The company says the enhancements make the software easier to use.

Based on feedback and analyses from customers, some common operations in Navision required too many clicks and processes to complete a task. "In this version we've managed to reduce the number of clicks from 20 to between four and five," says Jan Silleman, business manager for Microsoft Business Solutions--Navision. "We've really focused on how to make it easier."

Microsoft says the new version also runs in 39 languages and is supported by nearly 2,000 system integrators and partners. The product ships Oct. 20.

Microsoft Business Solutions' Navision is used by more than 45,000 companies worldwide and integrates financial, manufacturing, distribution, customer management, supply chain, analytics, and E-commerce data into one application, according to Microsoft.

Symbiant Technologies Inc. is a systems integrator that supports 53 Navision customers with custom applications. It spends a great deal of time talking with those customers and mapping out new features its customers suggest, according to the company. The requests, sometimes 600 pages long, are technical outlines of suggested product changes and enhancements and are sent to Microsoft for consideration. In the meantime, Symbiant Technologies customizes code to deliver some of the desired upgrades. "There's a tool we can use to request functions in the Navision product, but software-upgrade modifications and enhancement plans for the Navision product tend to be one to two years out," says David Hutchinson, CEO at Symbiant. "So we have eight full-time programmers that code custom software for the customer who doesn't want to wait."

The new release, according to Hutchinson, has several improvements. For example, the interface is modeled after Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 so it gives users a familiar working environment and the ability to design their own personalized menu structures. The application's key performance indicators and analysis tools have been enhanced with graphics to help users visually analyze their business and navigate the application more easily, he says.

Building on Microsoft SQL Server Notification Services and integration with overall Microsoft technology, Navision 4.0 introduces Business Notification to help businesses stay more connected with customers, employees, and suppliers. It includes an XML port that provides communication with other solutions, customers, vendors, and business partners.

The next version, due to be released in about 18 months, is expected to have radio-frequency identification features that companies can link to their supply-chain applications.

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