Microsoft makes overtures toward integration

At this year’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, Microsoft Corp. said it is making great strides to help small- and medium-sized businesses deal with one of their biggest hassles: integration.

Jeff Raikes, group vice-president of the Information Worker Business, which is responsible for Microsoft’s collaboration-related technologies, announced the general availability of the Information Bridge Framework, which Microsoft hopes will help partners and developers integrate disparate systems. The Framework will include tools and components to help users find, access and work with data from disparate line-of-business enterprise systems in the Office environment, he said.

“The challenge is to be able to get users connected with the business process and business application systems, and have insight into the business. That’s a customer pain point,” Raikes said.

For example, when users are working on a document in Office and want to include some information or find out more about their relationship with their customer, they have to toggle back and forth between Office and the customer relationship management (CRM) system to find the context, he said. But with the Information Bridge Framework, the user could click on a person’s name in the Word document, which would cause information about the business’ relationship with the customer to pop up. Nia Vekris, corporate administration manager for Sun Rich Fresh Foods Inc., said integration between various Microsoft applications is exactly what her company has been looking for.

A customer of Navision before the ERP vendor was bought out by Microsoft two years ago, the Richmond, B.C.-based producer of fresh fruit salad currently uses the Navision CRM system and is primarily a Microsoft shop.

Two months ago Sun Rich started looking into beefing up its CRM capabilities. “We did a brief research study…looking at Microsoft CRM and an ASP (application service provider) version of a CRM solution, and we decided that now that Navision is owned by Microsoft, there should be a move by Microsoft to integrate its CRM with its other products,” she said.

“We don’t want to purchase Microsoft CRM today — we’re looking at how it will integrate into the Navision CRM system before we move forward.”

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