Microsoft Unveils 'Duet'-Like Interface, New ERP Releases
Published: March 14, 2007
by Alex Woodie
Buoyed by the Office-based "Duet" interface it co-developed and released last year with SAP, Microsoft is now giving its ERP customers the option of using Office 2007 as a front-end interface into back-end Dynamics applications, the company announced this week at its annual ERP conference. Microsoft also announced new versions of its Dynamics ERP applications, and unveiled a new implementation methodology intended to streamline ERP rollouts.
One year ago, at the 2006 Convergence show in San Diego, Microsoft and SAP announced the pending availability of Duet, a product that turned Microsoft Office--specifically Outlook--into an interface for SAP's mySAP ERP software. Duet enabled users to perform certain business functions, such as entering time and attendance information, from an Outlook screen, such as the calendaring system served by Exchange Server.
Now, Microsoft is using the 2007 Convergence show being held this week in San Diego as the launch pad for its own version of Duet, called Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office. There will be two versions of the package--one called Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office and Windows Sharepoint Services, and the other Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office and SharePoint Server. For each, the software will provide users the capability to access specific business processes contained in Dynamics AX, Dynamics SL, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV, and the FRx budgeting software, via Office interfaces.
The Office-fronted business processes contained in the Dynamics Client for Office include: time and attendance for Dynamics GP; project time and expense for Dynamics SL; a "snap business data lookup" for Dynamics AX; and the FRx WebPort and DrillDown Viewer. Organizations that licenses one of the two Dynamics Client for Office packages also get the tools and the rights to build their own Office interfaces to Dynamics functions.
Microsoft plans to start selling the software in May. That will coincide with the upcoming launches this spring of new versions of Dynamics ERP products, including Dynamics GP 10.0 and Dynamics SL 7, which are being developed to work with the Dynamics Client. The new client interface will also be available for Dynamics AX 4.0, which was launched last June, and will also be included with the next planned release of Dynamics NAV, version 5.1.
Pricing for the new software is $195 per user for the Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office and Windows SharePoint Services, and $395 per user for the Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office and SharePoint Server. In addition to the 12 packages, the Dynamics Client brings a license for Office SharePoint Server 2007 and the right to access all the information and processes managed by a Dynamics ERP system.
New ERP Releases
In addition to the new Office-based Dynamics interfaces, Microsoft used Convergence 2007 to detail upcoming new releases of three of its four core ERP products, including Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.0, Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0, and Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0. Not surprisingly, Microsoft is touting better integration with its own products as key features added to the new ERP systems.
With Dynamics NAV 5.0, which is scheduled to ship later this month, Microsoft has made it easier to export business data to Excel and Word, boosted synchronization with Outlook's e-mail and calendar functionality, and added support for Windows Vista. NAV 5.0 will also feature closer ties with Microsoft server products, including BizTalk Server, SharePoint Server, SQL Server, and others. A handful of functional enhancements, such as new sales and purchase document approval, inter-company purchase cost distribution, inventory costing, and item tracking were also added with the new version.
Dynamics GP 10.0, which will be released in June 2007, includes more than 100 new functional enhancements, including a user interface that looks like Windows Vista, Office 2007, enhancements to business intelligence, a workflow engine, a "light" interface for occasional users, and integrated structured and unstructured search capabilities.
Lynne Stockstad, general manager of the Dynamics GP, Dynamics SL, and Point of Sale product lines, says Dynamics GP 10.0 has been under development at Great Plains former headquarters in Fargo, North Dakota, for the last two years. "The product is on its 10th major release in 14 years and it is extremely reliable and easy to implement and maintain," he says.
Also debuting in June will be Dynamics SL 7.0. Like it has with its other ERP packages, Microsoft has concentrated on enhancing the interfaces and building compatibility among products. NAV 5.0 will also be a native .NET application, which should make it even easier for Visual Studio .NET users to customize and further integrate the software with other products. The new release will also feature a new QuickSend function for automated electronic communication with vendors and customers, and RoleTailored, a new way for manages to consume business intelligence data.
Microsoft also made some Dynamics AX-related news when it announced the acquisition of eBECS, a privately held AX business partner based in the U.K. Microsoft bought eBECS to expand Dynamics AX's functionality in lean manufacturing, a capability that it says will be made available as an additional module (English only) by the end of the year. Down the road, Microsoft plans on building the lean manufacturing capability into the next release of Dynamics AX, and to make it available in languages besides English.
Microsoft also unveiled Sure Step, a new implementation methodology designed to help reduce risk and make deployment and configuration of ERP systems more predictable. Details of this new methodology were not available as this story went to press.
Last but not least, Microsoft unveiled a new Web site designed to bring together financial professionals involved in Dynamics ERP deployments. The Web site, which resides at community.dynamics.com, will include blogs, forums, tagging, and news feeds designed to help corporate controllers, finance managers, finance staff, and accountants share best practice techniques.
SAP-Microsoft Collaboration Produces "Duet"
Dynamics AX 4.0 Takes Step Toward Unified ERP
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