Microsoft Preps its Next-Gen Business Solutions Apps

Microsoft Preps its Next-Gen Business Solutions Apps

Mary Jo Foley

ORLANDO — At its annual Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) customer conference here, Microsoft is showing off early versions of a number of its next-generation applications.

During his Monday morning keynote, Doug Burgum, the Microsoft senior vice president in charge of the company’s small/mid-size business division, showed off quick demonstrations of Great Plains 8.0 and Sales for PocketPC, a Microsoft CRM enhancement due to ship this summer.

Microsoft is working on a number of mobile enhancements to its CRM platform, sources close to the company have said.

Microsoft is looking to make its panoply of MBS applications look and feel more like other Microsoft applications. The company is planning to give all of its core MBS applications a face-lift that will make them look like Office 2003 (and especially Outlook). As part of this campaign, Microsoft is working to add the Watson error-reporting technology that is part of Office to its MBS family, as well, Burgum said. The company also is working to more tightly integrate its core MBS applications with Office, as well as with MS CRM.

Great Plains 8.0, Microsoft’s distribution/manufacturing/accounting suite, is due to ship in July 2004. The product will sport a Microsoft Office user interface, as well as tighter integration with Microsoft Office. The new release also will offer customers “a deeper focus on Microsoft Business Solutions Business Portal functionality,” according to the company.

Solomon 6.0, likewise due in July, is the next version of Microsoft’s financial suite for SMBs. Microsoft is targeting the new release at project-, service- and distribution-driven companies, company officials said. As part of the 6.0 update, Microsoft will expand the built-in Business Portal capabilities and add new resource-assignment capabilities.

Also due out in July is the Microsoft Business Portal (MBP) 2.5, an update to its recently released MBP 2.0 product. The 2.5 release, which Microsoft is planning to integrate directly into Great Plains and Solomon, will add new requisition management, time-and-expense management, electronic-document delivery, human-resource self-service enhancements, and tight integration with the Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley.

Navision 4.0, the next version of Microsoft’s manufacturing software suite for SMBs, is due out in October 2004 — a quarter later than the company predicted last fall that it would release — according to Microsoft’s latest roadmap. Microsoft is promising more customizability, improved manufacturing functionality and a new upgrade toolkit for the new release.

Microsoft also is working on enhancements to its Microsoft Business Network (MBN) trading-partner network. The company released version 1.0 of MBN last fall. Since that time, a handful of early adopters have rolled out MBN.

Some time in the next six to nine months, Microsoft is planning to add the ability to exchange data with traditional EDI networks to MBN. Microsoft plans to offer this feature via its selected partners, starting with Inovis, who will sell it as a third-party service.

And by the end of calendar 2004, Microsoft expects to release version 2.0 of MBN. The company plans to add new business-process templates to the 2.0 release, as well as to tighten ties between MBN and other “back office” systems through new application programming interfaces.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Microsoft Watch.