BitDepth 568 - March 20

Microsoft launches its Dynamics software for Windows in San Diego...
Microsoft wants to make business Dynamic

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivers the closing keynote address at Convergence 2007 in San Diego. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

Last week, Microsoft launched a new initiative designed to make working on Windows a little easier and more organised.
The new product line, branded Microsoft Dynamics, is a fundamental rethinking of a group of enterprise resource planning (ERP) products acquired by the Redmond software company over the last decade and one entirely new one that targets customer relations management (CRM).
The Dynamics lineup works hard to integrate little panes of information, like a web page sliced up by frames, into a single window that's designed to fill your computer screen productively.
Much of Microsoft's thrust into the ERP market has been achieved by buying strong products in the market and stitching them together to create competitive alternatives to market leading products from companies such as Peoplesoft and SAP.

Mix and match solutions
This sort of mix and match of products at the high-end of the market is surprisingly commonplace, as companies juggle software solutions to find the right mix for their needs. Microsoft's effort with Dynamics works hard to bring their own product line together in a unified interface, while reaching into data from other products, which can make it possible for a Dynamics user to access all kinds of corporate information.
Microsoft has already done some work in this area with Duet, a front end for SAP that integrates the Office suite into SAP's database and reporting systems.

Craig McCollum, Vice President, Worldwide Sales Strategy, Microsoft Business Solutions emphasised the company's commitment to information access in a roundtable discussion with the Latin American press, noting that the product offers vendors development tools as well as web services support for integrating their software, a process that he promised will get more sophisticated in future releases.
Frankly, when you start talking about ERP products at that level, most people begin to glaze over. This is vertical market stuff, addressing needs that are usually described by buzzwords like "mission critical" and "data drill down."

Customer management made simpler
Dynamics CRM is easily the most intriguing product in the lineup and it's the effort that's most likely to impact the average business user whose world has traditionally been made up of a round-robin of Microsoft's business focused applications, Word, Excel and Outlook. 
Dynamics CRM also looks more familiar than the other Dynamics products, which put a new game face on the Great Plains, Navision Financials, Solomon and Axapta products. 
Satya Nadella's opening keynote emphasised the approaches in the new CRM product that make it easy of use and leverage the earned familiarity of the Outlook interface for the average user.

In his closing keynote, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bookended Nadella's point by noting that with simple transactions moving to automated business solutions, the most straightforward customer transactions now need to be more detailed and informed. A well-configured Dynamics CRM can give point of contact employees access to an unprecedented depth of information.
It's at version 1.0, but Dynamics CRM offers an intriguing introduction to a world of business computing which pushes applications into the background and puts information at the centre of the working day.
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