As Microsoft works toward developing its next-generation ERP suite, code-named Project Green, it's closely aligning its independent software vendors and value-added resellers around 14 vertical markets, including the manufacturing, distribution, public-sector, and services industries. By the end of 2006, the Microsoft Business Solutions group plans to have half its ISVs and VARs serving as vertical experts in those fields, enabling them to better focus on providing small- and medium-size companies with industry-specific capabilities.
A round of major upgrades to what are now four ERP products--Axapta, Great Plains, Navision, and Solomon--will see the programs begin to share design elements and, in some cases, common code. Microsoft this week extended support for future releases of these ERP applications from three years to five years. "We will build out the tools and capabilities to help customers find the solutions, and the vertical direction will create the clarity needed for the product lines," says Doug Burgum, senior VP for Microsoft Business Solutions.
The lack of a strong vertical strategy made Microsoft vulnerable to SAP, and getting to a common platform is vital, AMR Research analyst Bruce Richardson says. As Microsoft evolves its ERP offerings to a common platform, with applications tied to industry-specific business processes and independent software vendors as experts supporting specific vertical markets, Gene Alvarez, VP of technology research services at Meta Group, says, "it will alleviate customer confusion around which generic software application to buy."