Microsoft expands ERP offerings

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced it has expanded its enterprise resource planning (ERP) offerings and services for its small and mid-market customers.

The Microsoft Business Network, which integrates Microsoft’s ERP applications with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Business Solutions Applications, Microsoft BizTalk Service and hosted Web services, reduces the cost associated with collaboration, Microsoft said.

“The [integration of Microsoft’s desktop applications with its ERP platforms] allows those desktop applications to be used as the medium of communication,” said Warren Shiau, an analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto. Shiau explained that to be able to share information with customers, suppliers and partners, data would usually have to be contained in an ERP system.

“Information that resides in my applications can be rolled up into ERP – it’s pre-integrated – and can be shared without much fuss with my universe of related companies,” he said.

The Microsoft Business Network is geared towards midsized companies that keep information on desktop applications, and are on the cusp on needing an ERP application but do not require the performance of a more comprehensive solution from PeopleSoft Inc. or SAP AG. It saves these users from the laborious process of moving everything into an ERP system, Shiau said.

However this integration is also a way for Microsoft to protect itself against the commoditization of the desktop, Shiau explained. There are now open source desktop applications that cost nothing or have a negligible price, he explained. This added functionality – the integration with ERP – “enables them to maintain the pricing level and enables them to maintain customer belief that a price differential is warranted for Microsoft versus all the open source competitors,” Shiau said.

Microsoft also released two new demand planning modules – DP Power User and DP Collaborative – that work with Microsoft’s Axapta, Great Plains and Navision ERP products. These products help users to simplify and improve their internal business transparency, analysis and forecasting processes, the company said.

Finally, Microsoft has partnered with San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk Inc., a design and digital content company, to build a product life cycle management (PLM) solutions for the companies’ mutual customers in the small and midsized manufacturing industry.

Microsoft says this new product will let users integrate the design data from Autodesk’s products into Microsoft’s ERP solutions to connect engineering teams that design products with manufacturing. Microsoft says this will make it easier for customers to track product data by linking bills for materials from engineering and orders.

Microsoft said this will enable more visibility into a customer’s product development cycle and increase its frequency because engineering and manufacturing would have more reliable data at their fingertips earlier on in the design cycle.

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