IT Focus news briefs, May 2004

Microsoft expands Business Solutions offerings

Microsoft Corp. has announced forthcoming product updates from its Business Solutions group and plans for an expansion of its Microsoft Business Network collaboration initiative. Products that will be updated this year include Microsoft CRM (Customer Relationship Management), Great Plains, Solomon, Business Portal and Navision, Microsoft said in a statement released at the Convergence 2004 conference for Microsoft Business Solutions users that started Monday in Orlando. Microsoft CRM will be updated in mid-2004 with software that allows users to synchronize Pocket PC handheld computers with the CRM application. The feature is especially aimed at sales people who will be able to carry CRM data with them and make changes while on the road, Microsoft said. Great Plains and Solomon will get version upgrades in July: Great Plains 8.0 and Solomon 6.0. The new business applications releases will offer numerous enhancements, including better integration with Business Portal, which in July will get a point upgrade to version 2.5, Microsoft said. In October, Microsoft plans to release version 4.0 of its Navision ERP. The update will offer greater functionality for manufacturing and an improved user experience, Microsoft said. At the Convergence event, Microsoft also discussed the Microsoft Business Network, a Web services collaboration framework it announced last year. The company has completed a test project with Inovis Inc. that allowed the Microsoft Business Network to send and receive documents using EDI standards. Adding support for EDI allows Business Network users to expand the number of trading partners, Microsoft said. EDI support will be offered through Inovis by the end of the year, Microsoft said. — Joris Evers, IDG News Service

PLM vendor defines food and beverage

Leveraging knowledge of new product development from its customer database that includes Coca-Cola, Cadbury Schweppes, Campbell’s Soup, and Rich Products, Formation Systems Inc., a product lifecycle management ISV, announced in April Optiva Best Practice Solution for the food and beverage industries. The Southborough, Mass.-based company claims Optiva Best Practices suite will bring standard data definitions for ingredients, gleaned from some of the largest players in the food and beverage industry, early into the R&D process in order to accelerate time to market. Typically, companies have dozens of definitions for the same ingredient. Agreement across business units on standardizing on ingredient terms can take half a year which delays revenue recognition, says Colin Masson, research director for process industries at AMR Research. “ERP vendors claim to do PLM but they can only do it once you have the definition of that product. They tend to mislead the market about their capabilities,” Masson noted. While standard definitions will accelerate development of new products, the solution must also accommodate innovation and uniqueness. The Optiva Best Practice Solution is currently available on the .Net platform. The company promises solutions for specialty chemical and home and personal care industries later this year. — Ephraim Schwartz, InfoWorld (U.S.)

PeopleSoft upgrades promote lean

PeopleSoft introduced lean procurement functionality for demand-driven manufacturing during the Chicago-based National Manufacturing Week 2004 in February. Buyer Workspace is a new component of the PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) suite. The company also announced enhancements to its Supplier Self Service solution. These applications enable lean procurement — the alignment of materials procurement with actual, real-time demand — by enabling manufacturers to manage by exception and synchronize requirements with suppliers, said PeopleSoft. The vendor’s latest SRM applications include two portal-based solutions that enable a full range of processes for pulling materials from suppliers only when demand exists, said PeopleSoft. The company is also rolling out a refresh of the green-screen-based World applications it inherited last summer with its purchase of J.D. Edwards & Co. A Web graphical user interface counts among some 250 enhancements to World applications and the higher-end EntepriseOne lineup, mostly focused on ease of use and regulatory compliance. Among some of those changes are tightened integration that will allow sales order information to be fed directly into the World manufacturing and distribution management software, which should help companies improve planning and supply chain processes, said PeopleSoft.

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