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Microsoft Releases Two New Dynamics ERP Suites

The updates complete an initiative to give all four of Microsoft's ERP suites a common look and feel.
Microsoft released two new versions of its Dynamics ERP software on Monday, Dynamics GP 10.0, formerly known as Great Plains, and SL 7.0, formerly known as Solomon.

Their on-time releases complete an initiative to give all four of Microsoft's ERP suites a common look and feel. Microsoft intends to follow up in future releases by more tightly integrating the products' code.

The two new releases include new clients with a look and feel that matches that of Office 2007, including Office's new "ribbon" interface that replaces drop-down menus. The new clients are .Net-based, so they simplify the development environment -- SL was formerly based on Visual Basic, GP on something called "Dexterity" -- and bring in possibilities for a much richer interface. The two products also share a common portal based on SharePoint that will run either on SharePoint Server or on SharePoint Services, which is bundled with Windows Server, so customers won't have to buy SharePoint against their wishes.

Dynamics GP 10.0, which aims at everything between small groups to divisions in several vertical markets, includes 120 new features especially focusing on human resources and payroll departments in vertical markets like the public sector and manufacturing. GP 10.0 also includes a bunch of new work around business intelligence, including two new SQL report templates for Excel, new workflow tools, and the ability to take advantage of search features found in the company's relatively new Dynamics Client for Office product.

Microsoft's ERP products are increasingly tailored to different roles, and in GP 10.0, that trend continues. For example, previously a warehouse manager would have to open new windows to pick items, pack items and ship them; now there is one screen for the whole process. GP 10.0 has also become more contextualized, in that if finance employees look into a customer list and select a customer, Dynamics shows options to drill into account, delete, and view inventory and back orders; if they select a group of customers, the interface will change to print reports or get a listing of all open invoices, and so on.

Microsoft has had a reputation as having ERP suites most appropriate for smaller businesses, but the company makes it a point to say that these releases now scale. More than a thousand GP customers already have licenses that cover more than a thousand employees. "We end up in some of the largest enterprises, quite often running a division or a department," says Jon Pratt, a senior director on Microsoft's Dynamics team.

On the other hand, Dynamics SL 7.0 aims at any company where there is a lot of project management going on, such as construction, professional services, and advertising. The most significant upgrade for SL 7.0 is the ability to set up new projects and add or change project elements such as orders and budgets. In the past, project managers could view these project items, but could not use Dynamics to tweak them.