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New era of Microsoft ERP applications begins

Debut of Dynamics GP 9.0 this month starts first wave of integration of four products into one

With last month’s partner launch of the newest version of Great Plains, Microsoft embarked on the first step of integrating its collection of four enterprise-class applications under one roof. Now dubbed Microsoft Dynamics GP 9.0, the business management application for small and medium companies — which ships Dec. 19 — promises to take greater advantage of Web services, deeper integration with Microsoft Office, an Outlook-type interface, enhanced business intelligence tools and a role-based desktop.
There will also be consulting toolkits and Vertical PowerPacks to help partners with implementations.
However, according to Billy Maynard of Gartner Research, 160 Web services components needed to take full advantage of GP 9’s capabilities (called Extensions) won’t ship until the first quarter of next year.
GP partners are looking forward to the release. “It’s going to be a nice version,” George Braun, president of TGO Consulting, a Markham, Ont. solution provider, said in a pre-launch interview. His company counts on the application for about 90 per cent of the company’s $8 million in annual revenues.
Brent Twist, CEO of Encore Business Solutions of Winnipeg, believes 80 per cent of Great Plains users will want to upgrade in the next six months.
Great Plains is grouped under the Microsoft Business Solutions division, along with ERP siblings Axapta, Navision and Solomon.

Causes Confusion
Although targeted at different markets there is some overlap, which causes confusion among customers as well as partners. Sometimes a Great Plains VAR, for example, will find itself bidding for a deal with a Navision partner.
Because all four applications were acquired by Microsoft they also come with different code bases and toolkits. So several years ago the company promised to eventually merge them into one. Customers weren’t enthused at the original plan, which suggested there might be a need for complex porting.
Earlier this year Microsoft released a new roadmap, vowing to use Web services and a service oriented architecture to bring the applications together. As a symbol of that goal of unity, the four applications have been renamed under one umbrella: Dynamics GP, Dynamics AX (Axapta), Dynamics NAV (Navision) and Dynamics SL (Solomon).
Dynamics AX and NAV will have new releases next year, with the new unified code base not expected until at least 2008. Microsoft will achieve the converged platform by adopting integrating Web services into the four applications in two waves.