Can Microsoft Dynamics Help Companies Close 'Last Mile' of Productivity?

Ann All

Bill Gates recently called the gap between personal productivity software and back-office applications like ERP "the last mile" in productivity. Microsoft wants to help companies traverse that rocky ground by tightly integrating Dynamics, a collection of ERP and CRM offerings, with Office 2007 and Windows Vista.


The idea is that knowledge workers will be able to access needed data from back-office apps without ever leaving the comfort of good old Office.


Yet it looked as if Microsoft might have bitten off more than it could chew, by trying to unite a hodgepodge of applications purchased in several separate acquisitions into a cohesive unit. Some of the early reports from testers weren't good.


In recent months, however, the buzz has become more positive, with at least one consulting firm saying that Dynamics is beginning to look "much more cohesive."


Once called Project Green, the original plan was to unite four separate ERP suites under a single code base. Three years into the effort, however, eWEEK reports that the current plan is to merge the suites via a common underlying collection of technology, including SQL Server, Visual Studio .NET, BizTalk Server and Workflow Foundation.


The article calls the just-released iterations of two of the four ERP suites "a major milestone" for Microsoft. However, eWEEK also refers to the company's "increasingly convoluted ERP road map."


At least three customers appear willing to stick with Microsoft as it works through the many details. One, Clearwater Seafoods, says it hopes to expand its use of business intelligence through the software's ability to connect to SQL Server and to Office.


In an interview appearing on WebWire, all three of the customers talk up the interface, which echoes Excel and Outlook, and also allows companies to tailor the data employees see based on the jobs they do. "...For those people who are a little intimidated by modular systems, the new user interface gives it such a familiar feel," says one customer.


Yet it's worth remembering that -- snazzy interfaces and robust integration capabilities notwithstanding -- products can only go so far. As IT Business Edge blogger Rob Enderle reminds us:

...if you first don't have an idea how to make your organization strategic, there is nothing Microsoft or any other vendor can do to fix that problem. This is like being in a car race and not knowing what kind of race it is before contracting out a race car; chances are neither you nor your boss will like the result regardless of who builds the car.

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