Microsoft Business Solutions Goes Thematic - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Business Solutions Goes Thematic

Microsoft outlines five development themes for its ERP solutions.

VentanaMonitor

Summary

Ventana Research views the Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) announcement of development themes for its mid-market ERP solutions as a sign of increasing maturity of vision. Two themes in particular have a performance management dimension, indicating that Microsoft will pay more attention to this core competency in future releases of its ERP solutions.

Assessment

Microsoft announced that over the next 12 months, all four ERP product lines — MBS-Axapta, MBS-Great Plains, MBS-Navision and MBS-Solomon ERP solutions — would be enhanced according to five development themes: best total cost of ownership, adaptive processes, empowered users, connected business and better insight However, the announcement did little to explain either the themes or Microsoft’s plans to execute on them.

Although all these themes have a performance management dimension, Ventana Research is pleased to see “adaptive processes” and “better insight” among the themes. This is an indication that process-centric solutions delivering business insight at the operational level is becoming a focus of attention at Microsoft. And by integrating business insight at the process level, the participation in and availability of performance management is spread more widely across an organization, making ERP more valuable and increasing its potential ROI.

If properly executed, these themes will have deep implications for the functional development of the current solutions. However, it remains to be seen if the execution matches the vision or if these themes are merely an indication of the direction that customers and partners can expect of the future “Green” release — a unified MBS solution dependent on the “Longhorn” release of Windows.

Market Impact

Ventana Research warns that these kind of development themes may be difficult for MBS to execute on, especially in a consistent way across four product lines developed using different technologies. This announcement would certainly have had more impact if the themes were applied to just one “flagship” product line.

The market should look for detailed product roadmaps to follow, articulated by theme for each ERP solution. A partner strategy by theme should also be expected to reinforce the role of the MBS channel in delivering the thematic functionality. If this follow-up is not evident, then MBS competitors may assume that development of the current MBS solutions will remain at the “business as usual” state.

Recommendation

Ventana Research recommends that MBS customers and partners press MBS to execute on these commitments, which have great potential to raise the bar in terms of mid-market ERP capability and to inject some new momentum into the marketplace. However, because it will take considerable time for these themes to show up in terms of significant functionality in MBS solutions, we do not think this announcement should impact current evaluations or competitive comparisons of mid-tier ERP solutions.

The themes do offer a useful set of “lenses” that provide a different perspective and add value to an evaluation process, but the lack of substantive functional delivery by MBS and other mid-tier ERP solution providers means that the themes should not be used as a basis for making buying decisions.

We will be tracking MBS's follow-up execution on these themes to determine if they are executed in a way that will truly benefit customers of MBS ERP solutions in improving their performance management.

Stewart McKie is European Analyst Director at Ventana Research.

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