Microsoft Dynamics

Putting the Dynamics puzzle together
Story and photographs by Mark Lyndersay
Published in the Business Guardian, April 05, 2007

The Convergence crowd awaits Steve Ballmer's closing keynote.

Stalking the stage at Microsoft's Convergence 2007 in San Diego, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was pumping the air with his arms, invoking the faithful gathered for the final keynote of the event to get on board with Microsoft's new vision for its high-end financial and human resource packages.
"As simple transactions are moved into automated business systems," he said, "more people now need more support in handling more complicated customer transactions."
The centrepiece of the event was Microsoft's new Dynamics line of products, a deft repackaging of its four enterprise resource planning (ERP) software products retooled for greater user interface harmony, deeper ties to the company's server and database products and more transparent integration with the Microsoft Office Suite.
There were many pretty graphics, including a resource allocation table that pivoted in three dimensions and allowed a user to drag virtual resources from one part of the production line to another with the ease of a video gamer.
Dynamics SureStep offered colourful lozenges as a way of representing human resource allocations.
An even more ambitious aspect of Dynamics was the work being done on "roles" prepackaged workflow components that were advertised as making it easier for developers to create software instances tailored to common but widely different arms of a typical company, such as factory floor management and financial analysis.
But the company also managed to his some odd notes as well, announcing a revamp of its Customer Source website in Satya Nadella's words as "My Space for business."
But the web presence is structured as anything but the free-wheeling forum for ideas and discussion that such a bold designation would suggest. In fact, the Customer Source remains very much their space, with monitored contributions, formal articles and a policed, stuffy air that seems at odds with the excitement of Nadella's announcement.
But the formal announcement of the Dynamics product line was only part of the story as dozens of software vendors filled the Expo hall offering their own additions to the product line and more than 8,000 solutions partners prowled the hallways, seeking answers to problems and software to enhance their products.
These are the people, 200 businesses employing 1,800 professionals in the Latin American region, who make a product like Dynamics work in the real world, providing a bridge between Microsoft's conceptual layers and the business applications that get used daily.

Rubber on the local asphalt
Lorcan Camps
Dynamics in Trinidad and Tobago
Lorcan Camps is a tall, striking young Trinidadian who runs Infotech Caribbean, a Gold Certified Microsoft partner with deep investments in Great Plains and Solomon software.
The company began working with Solomon when it was an add-on to the Office suite integrated using Visual Basic and added Great Plains expertise when that company acquired Solomon.
The acquisition of both by Microsoft was a boon for Infotech, who were able to consolidate relationships with a single company, but for now, development still happens in each business application separately.
"The dashboard is great for customer buy-in on a product, but the status quo for most businesses in Trinidad and Tobago is a collection of applications that aren't integrated," says Camps.
"Our efforts have been focused on integrating the specific needs of our customers into the product and on customising it for specific business needs."
Camps sees more immediate impact in the lateral integration of Dynamics into products such as Office Live, a web-based version of the Office Suite and in the refresh of the Windows Mobile software, which would make it easier to feed information between a cellphone or PDA.
"The dashboard interface will offer opportunities for us in the future, but so far, it has not."

Raul Lozano, Business Group Lead, Microsoft Business Solutions, Latin America, Craig McCollum, Vice President, Worldwide Sales Strategy, Microsoft Business Solutions and members of the Latin American press.

What is Dynamics
Over the last decade, Microsoft has bought the best developer tools it could find in the enterprise resource space, including Great Plains Accounting and Solomon from the US and the European products Navision Financials and Axapta.
Dynamics is a first step in unifying the product line with a common "dashboard" style of presenting data that is now common to all four products.
Microsoft has committed to supporting all four products, now rebranded as Microsoft Dynamics GP, SL, NAV and AX until 2012 with parallel work continuing on the creation of a common codebase that will eventually bring the capabilities of each of the products into a single developer application.
It's worth noting that Dynamics is a developer tool, not an end-user application and it is local vendors who will deliver products to clients.
According to Craig McCollum, Vice President, Worldwide Sales Strategy, Microsoft Business Solutions, Microsoft is keen to work with partners on creating a solution market, which would allow work done in specialised fields to be distributed more widely.

Dynamics CRM
Dynamics CRM, touted as a "new" product targeting customer relations management needs is the third version of a product which has had a checkered history with vendors, who have laboured with a product that integrated poorly with Office and delivered poorly on its promise.
But number three is a kind of magic number at Microsoft, which has a reputation for hammering away at problematic software with the doggedness of Spartan warriors.
The product has done particularly well in the Latin American market according to Latam Marketing Manager Juan Mina, who notes that the product has had 100 percent year over year growth in the region.
Hernan Tabares, sees the CRM era as a pivotal one, "as business changing as the move from ledgers to spreadsheets."
Tabares sees "every worker as a potential customer relations point of contact."
The product, which starts at US$10,000 for the server backend and five clients currently has 400 customers in the Latin American region and 1,000 worldwide.
According to Infotech President and CEO Lorcan Camps, "there is no majority player in a market that's still wide open. This is a space that Microsoft can play profitably in."
"Before CRM can take hold, there are business processes that need to be automated. It's a lot easier to use on the front end, but companies have to commit to building business processes that support it."

Trinidad and Tobago on the Microsoft sales charts
Trinidad and Tobago's sales rank according to statistics provided by Microsoft's Latin American arm, which includes Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Vista sales are accounted for separately through OEM transactions.

Revenue Ranking
1st in Microsoft Dynamics
8th in Microsoft Overall

Sales Growth Year to Date
76% Dynamics growth Year over Year
65% Microsoft Overall Growth Year over Year

Product mix
(Percentage of Microsoft product revenue in Midsize Commercial Accounts in T&T)
Office is 28%
Dynamics ERP is 22% (5% average in LATAM)
Windows Server is 13%
SQL Server is 9%
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