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ERP, Easy as NAV

The latest version of Microsoft's Dynamics NAV enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite focuses on the user experience and adds business intelligence (BI) capabilities. It enforces a message that ERP vendors repeat constantly: ERP does an organization no good if users won't touch it.

And still, a lot of ERP applications sit on a virtual shelf in many companies. Chris Caren, general manager of marketing and product management for Microsoft Dynamics -- Microsoft's line of ERP suites -- cites an oft-noted statistic: According to AMR Research Inc., only 10 percent of a given company's employees on average are licensed to use ERP applications, and of that 10 percent, only half actually use the apps.

Microsoft has long developed its four Dynamics suites with the goal of increasing employee usage of ERP and therefore increasing its value in an organization. That theme continues with the release of NAV 2009, which Microsoft announced on Nov. 19 and is making generally available on Dec. 1. NAV is aimed at companies with 50 to 1,000 employees, Caren says.

The 2009 version of the suite brings further enhancements to its user interface, which looks increasingly similar to that of NAV's up-market cousin, AX, Caren says. The idea is to make the ERP interface as familiar as possible to users in order to ease their transition to using the back-office software. "It looks like a very modern, consumerized, Web-based experience," Caren says.

While Caren says that the enhanced interface is the biggest change in NAV compared to prior versions, he also notes that NAV 2009 will include for the first time a database layer that embeds SQL Server. That has allowed Microsoft to build in BI capabilities that weren't present in previous versions, Caren says.

"Our midmarket strategy for BI is to take it to market through Dynamics," Caren explains. And by embedding SQL Server and BI capabilities in NAV, he continues, Microsoft is helping companies skip some of the more arduous steps in the deployment of business applications.

About the Author

Lee Pender is the executive features editor of Redmond magazine. You can reach him at lpender@redmondmag.com or follow him on Twitter.

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