Microsoft releases Great Plains update

Microsoft Corp. next month will begin shipping the first major update of its Great Plains enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite since the software was rebranded under the Dynamics moniker. The new software, called Microsoft Dynamics GP 9.0, will be generally available in English-language versions on Dec. 19, with versions in other languages to be released in the first quarter of 2006, a Microsoft executive said.

Microsoft plans to announce the new product Tuesday at its Microsoft IT Forum show in Barcelona, Spain, said Lynne Stockstad, general manager of Microsoft business solutions.

Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, released to manufacturing last week, are the first suites that will be made available in wave one of Microsoft’s phased plan, formerly code-named Project Green, to unite its set of business applications on a common code base and through a common graphical user interface. Dynamics CRM will be available by the end of the year.

The second wave of Microsoft Dynamics, which will not begin until 2008, extends to all of Microsoft’s business applications, including upcoming versions of the other software in the Dynamics family, Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision), Dynamics SL (formerly Solomon) and Dynamics AX (formerly Axapta).

Dynamics aims to more tightly tie together Microsoft’s various business applications instead of letting customers suffer integrating the products themselves. Microsoft acquired most of the applications in the Dynamics family from other companies, so they are notoriously difficult to integrate and share overlapping functionality. However, Microsoft executives have said the applications all serve their own purpose in addressing different customer needs, so the vendor has no plans to phase any of the products out at this time.

The pricing of the new edition of the software has not changed from Microsoft’s previous version of Great Plains, Stockstad said. Microsoft Dynamics GP Standard Edition pricing starts at US$3,500 and Microsoft Dynamics GP Professional Edition starts at $7,500.

A key enhancement among the more than 170 new features of Dynamics GP 9.0 is the inclusion of 21 role-based desktops that will provide more customized content and functionality for business users depending on their role in an organization, Stockstad said.

“You signify which role you are of the 21 and it comes up with a desktop optimized for that role,” she said. The desktops have preconfigured reports, queries that the person uses, key performance indicators and metrics that will help different users do their jobs more efficiently, Stockstad said. The desktops also integrate with Microsoft Outlook for document tracking and managing.

Dynamics GP also expands the functionality of its Web-based portal to allow not only a company’s employees to access it, but also customers, who can use the portal to place orders and manage their relationships with a company, Stockstad said.

The new suite also will offer deeper integration with Microsoft CRM through an add-on piece of software that will be available to Dynamics GP customers in the first quarter of 2006. “A lot of companies want their CRM system and ERP system to integrate, so we’re providing this option for them,” Stockstad said.

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