Dispatch from Dallas
Catching the Wave at Convergence 2006
Microsoft Business Solutions Group's annual Convergence conference,
which focuses on the company's business applications, drew thousands of
customers and partners to Dallas in late March. Here are a few highlights
from the show:
People Power:Microsoft unveiled its "people-ready" marketing strategy
for its Dynamics line of enterprise resource planning applications. The
idea behind the tag line: Software should empower employees to solve their
own problems, create efficiencies and move their businesses forward.
Waves of Change:
The Dynamics application set will undergo two waves of change in
the next few years. In the first wave, Microsoft is already integrating
the four products in its suite (AX, GP, NAV and SL -- adapted from the
products' original names, Axapta, Great Plains, Navision and Solomon)
into Windows and Office and will continue to do so as it introduces Vista,
Office 2007 and new versions of Dynamics applications over the next two
to three years.
Microsoft says the integration gives users a unified view of all four
ERP applications within a familiar interface. Betting that back-end capabilities
will even themselves out across the competitive landscape as the company
catches up to its rivals, Microsoft hopes to differentiate itself with
better-looking, easier-to-use tools.
Microsoft Business Solutions Chairman Doug
Burgum (right) described how his late father, a grain silo operator
in rural North Dakota, taught him to separate the wheat from the
Wave 2 involves moving all four applications onto the same platform and
offering customers a single, broad-based solution with "best-of-the-best"
functionality from each application. The first Wave 2 releases are scheduled
to hit in 2008 and 2009 with iterative releases for each product.
Microsoft is urging partners to start preparing now for that second wave
of change. Partners focused on just one solution will need to develop
expertise in the entire Dynamics suite and switch from a product-focused
to a vertically focused strategy.
The immediate Dynamics roadmap calls for shipping AX 4.0 in June, with
SL 7.0, NAV 5.0 and the next version of Dynamics CRM scheduled to ship
in the first half of 2007. GP 10.0 is scheduled for a 2007 release.
Solution Finder: Get your customer
references in order. Microsoft's new Solution Finder service www.microsoft.com/dynamics/solutionfinder.mspx,
which provides links to partners offering specific expertise, will best
benefit those who can prove that that their companies deliver value. Partners
must produce two solid customer references to be listed in the Solution
Finder system; as they produce more references, they'll move higher up
their specialty-area lists.
Open Gates: Microsoft Chairman Bill
Gates spoke candidly about his family in his keynote address, saying that
his 6-year-old son is so into shopping for cars online that the youngster
has dealers contacting him about potential sales. He also assured the
audience that his kids use MSN's search engine rather than that of rival
Against the Grain: Microsoft Business
Solutions Chairman Doug Burgum's keynote address included a touching story
about how his late father, a grain silo operator in rural North Dakota,
taught him to separate the wheat from the chaff to provide customers with
the cleanest, most valuable possible final product. Burgum choked up during
his talk, holding back tears several times.