Microsoft has released a public preview of a new SaaS offering called Project Madeira, a collection of cloud-based apps designed to help small and midsize businesses (SMBs) manage organizational processes.
Project Madeira is a multi-tenant public cloud service running on Microsoft Azure. It's built on the Dynamics NAV platform, along with several other Microsoft technologies.
The idea behind the service is to tie business operations with Office 365 productivity tools so SMBs can better manage finances and improve overall efficiency. Users can access the Project Madeira service online or as a mobile app for iOS, Android, and Windows devices.
Because Project Madeira is embedded within Office 365, organizations can handle business processes like sales, finances, purchasing, quote requests, and customer creation, all without leaving Outlook.
Part of the idea behind Project Madeira is to cut back on time wasted switching from app to app. The service also recognizes and pulls business context such as invoices and quote requests from within Outlook, and provides the information and tools needed for the user to proceed with any given task.
Microsoft promises using the app won't present much of a learning curve to its business audience. "If you know how to use Office, then you know how to use Project 'Madeira,'" wrote Microsoft's Marko Perisic, general manager for Dynamics SMB, in a blog post on the announcement.
Project Madeira is intended for organizations with 10 to 100 employees. Businesses of this size typically need an upgrade from the basic financial tools they used in their early days, but they aren't yet ready to invest in a customized enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
"Without sacrificing ease of use or speed of setup, Project 'Madeira' offers a fully powered business management solution in the cloud, with capabilities spanning financials, dimensions, sales and purchase management, inventory, CRM (opportunity management), multi-currency, and business insight," Perisic explained.
A tool like Project Madeira gives SMBs the resources for growth without requiring them to sacrifice so they can afford a larger and more complex management system.
[Read: The Blue Screen of Death now has a QR code to troubleshoot PC crashes.]
Perisic also noted that a few third-party software vendors are working on extensions for Project Madeira. These will add both horizontal functionality and vertical improvements specific to different industries.
Project Madeira is currently available in the US market as a public preview, which will last for several months, Microsoft reports. Following the integration of user feedback, the company will release a full version later in 2016, first in the US and then in other countries.
The launch of Project Madeira reflects Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's mobile-first, cloud-first vision. Since it's built on Azure, businesses have the security of knowing their information is safeguarded within "hyper-scale, enterprise-class" datacenters.
The service is also intentionally designed for an increasingly mobile workforce. It's clear Microsoft is targeting this demographic with the release of mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows at the same time.