When the headline "The Next Big ERP Innovator: Microsoft" popped up in a Google alert this week, I figured it must have been a five- or seven- or nine-year-old posting. Perhaps it was from 2000 when Microsoft bought Great Plains or 2002 when it acquired Navision or 2004 when it began promoting "Project Green." Project Green, in the words of blogger Frank Scavo:
"was aimed at converting the (ERP) products (acquired by Microsoft) to Microsoft technology and converting their program code to a single code base while retaining the best features of each product.
Remember that in acquiring Great Plains and Navision, Microsoft also acquired Solomon and Damagard. Add in Microsoft's own fairly new-at-the-time CRM product, and Microsoft all of a sudden had five separate enterprise software code bases. However, as Scavo describes, the plan to combine them was quietly dropped.
So I was surprised to see that "The Next Big ERP Innovator: Microsoft" post by Thomas Wailgum was not from 2000 or 2002 or 2004 but March 31, 2009.
Boy, what did I miss? The answer is I missed Microsoft's mid-March Convergence user conference. I didn't even have time to attend via the cloud. (I still can get a flavor for it, however, as can you, at this Microsoft site.)
So I quickly read the press releases and related material. Sorry, Thomas, but I don't see a "next big ERP innovation" in there. Wailgum's thinking seems to be based on an interpretation of Albert Pang's report on the conference. (Truth in advertising: Albert took my place as ERP analyst at IDC in 2003.) I don't read Albert's opinion (as interpreted by Wailgum) that way. Albert liked the way Microsoft is tying its Bill-Gates-kitchen-sink surface computing stuff into ERP. But that is really not any more innovative than SAP tying the Palm Pilot to its customer data file 10 years ago (nor do I think Albert thinks it is). In fact, the Microsoft technology shown at Convergence may even be tied to joint SAP/Microsoft research from the program called Duet.
But Wailgum raises a very good question by implication:
"Is there anymore innovation likely in ERP? Or has ERP reached the commodity status of application and web server software?
The reason I stopped doing ERP analysis at IDC in 2003 is because I wanted to begin doing research into business process management (BPM). So you can bet I have an opinion on the question. More next time but don't hesitate to add your opinion before that.