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Convergence Tackles Tough Times

Conventional wisdom says that now is not the best time to try to sell enterprise applications to small and midsize businesses, but Kirill Tatarinov isn't interested in conventional wisdom.

Tatarinov -- corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) and effectively head of Microsoft's Dynamics enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management product lines -- will take his message to companies at this month's Convergence conference. The message? Now is the time to invest in Dynamics.

It's a mantra that an expected 9,000 attendees will likely hear repeated often at Convergence, Microsoft's Dynamics-focused show, which will take place March 10-13 in New Orleans. But it's also a mantra that will likely be easier repeated than executed in IT departments as budgets are reduced and projects get shelved in a shrinking economy.

Still, Tatarinov and his band of Dynamics evangelists hope to demonstrate at Convergence that down times are the best times to invest in technology that, once implemented, is designed to cut costs and increase efficiency. He's hoping that companies will start taking stock of the ERP systems they have in-house and looking to improve them.

"[IT] budgets are certainly tight," Tatarinov allows. "However, what we're seeing here are two different vectors of approach. You have a substantive number of customers who are using legacy technology, technology they may have procured 10 to 15 years ago. We do see examples of customers that are looking at replacing old ERP systems that they may have put in place in the last investment cycle nine or 10 years ago."

Figure 1
Kirill Tatarinov

Profiting from Dynamics
This year's Convergence may be light on new-product announcements, but it will be all about telling tales of customers reaping benefits from Dynamics CRM, as well as from the four Dynamics ERP lines: AX, NAV, SL and GP.

"This year, the event becomes even more unique because of the economic conditions and because we're going to focus on articulating to our partners and customers how they can endure and prevail," Tatarinov explains. "We'll be talking about specific examples. We'll be bringing up customer examples, methodologies and technologies."

And they'll be touting what Microsoft considers its differentiators with Dynamics -- factors the company says make the ERP and CRM lines different from offerings from competitors like SAP AG and Oracle Corp. Those messages will mostly be about the "role-tailored" nature of Dynamics apps, as well as ease of use, speed and ease of implementation.

Building on Project Green
The year 2008 was a busy one for Microsoft's Dynamics business. The company launched a new version of AX, AX 2009, in June, and released NAV 2009 in December (see "ERP, Easy as NAV," December 2008). It also introduced feature packs for the other two suites, GP and SL.

Past editions of Convergence have focused heavily on Project Green, a major Microsoft research project involving its ERP and CRM products. Project Green was once best known as the effort that would eventually merge Microsoft's four ERP suites into one mega-suite -- but Microsoft scrapped that plan, more or less killing it at Convergence in 2007.

Some customers, however, still express confusion about Microsoft's four-suite strategy. But according to Tatarinov, no one should be confused anymore: "I would say if you hear any confusion, please send them to me," he says. "Right now there shouldn't be any confusion in the marketplace at all."

And he reiterates that Project Green was about more than just potentially merging ERP suites. It yielded results that have found their way into some of the Dynamics products.

"Project Green was a massive investment and massive research project in many different areas," Tatarinov says. "The role-tailored experience -- that innovation came from Project Green. What we found in talking to our partners and customers is [they] really don't want that revolution; they want evolution. We are 100 percent committed to all four of our products in our portfolio."

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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