Microsoft Business Solutions has a number of different products apart from CRM which can all be considered ERP solutions:
- Great Plains
There are also some other products some of which extend the ERP solutions above
- Microsoft Business Network
- Enterprise Reporting
- Retail Management System
- C5 (Denmark Only)
- Small Business Financials (North America only)
- Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager (more on BCM in another post)
Microsoft acquired these products when buying Great Plains in the US and Navision in Denmark in 2002. Navision had previously acquired Axapta.
ERP like CRM is a much misused term but in essence ERP is about integrating your internal organisation and as such covers a wide range of functions such as manufacturing, accounting, warehouse, shipping, purchasing, order processing, field service etc.
Each of the four MBS ERP products has different strengths in the functional areas and as such is targeted at different segments of the market. There is some overlap between the MBS ERP products and normally this isn’t a problem given their geographical heritage except in the UK where Great Plains, Navision and Axapta have been sold successfully by a strong set of MBS partners.
Axapta is aimed at larger organisations who perhaps have discrete or complex manufacturing processes. Navision is aimed at medium sized businesses and is highly customisable and is particularly strong in supply chain management. Great Plains is aimed at medium sized businesses and is particularly strong in financial management and field service.
Project Green was created to create a single code base and eventually one ERP solution. However, this has caused problems with customers unsure of the current ERP products’ future (Microsoft has stated they they will be enhanced and supported to 2013) and this month Microsoft has changed from a Big Bang approach to an evolutionary approach.
This can be seen in the common role based menus in the latest versions of Navision and Great Plains. Common roles along with the use of Sharepoint Portals, common workflow engine and SQL based analytics/business intelligence form Wave 1 of Project Green which will last until 2007.
Wave 2 of Project Green will bring a more commonality between the products and has a time frame of 2008 onwards. Wave 2 will also see tighter integration with the next versions of Windows and Office.
More details on Project Green at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2005/mar05/03-07Convergence05UmbrellaPR.asp and http://www.microsoft-watch.com/article2/0,1995,1773425,00.asp
So is this re-orientating of Project Green a good thing. In my opinion, yes it is as it remove the confusion over the current products in the minds of prospects and competitors. Changing an ERP system is not something you do very often and when a step-change occurs e.g. one product replacing another it is likely to open the customer up to a change of supplier.
From a Microsoft CRM perspective it should mean the integrations with the ERP products will be here quicker rather than waiting for the new big bang product. Microsoft CRM already integrates with Great Plains and Navision support is due with the next version of CRM.