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Microsoft ERP Buying Guide: The Many Flavors of Microsoft ERP

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Posted October 11, 2011 By Drew Robb     Feedback

Microsoft offers four Dynamics ERP systems; which one is right for you?

Over the last decade, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has acquired a succession of enterprise resource planning (ERP) companies and now boasts a wide range of ERP offerings: Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics SL, Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Microsoft Dynamics AX.

Surely, with so many brands to choose from, some consolidation is on the cards. No, says, Guy Weismantel, director of Microsoft Dynamics ERP Product Marketing.

"Microsoft is not end of life-ing any Microsoft Dynamics solution," he told Enterprise Apps Today. "We will continue to invest in all of our Microsoft Dynamics ERP products and intend for each solution to grow and gain a competitive advantage in their respective markets."

So which one is right for you? Let's take a look at each and try to differentiate them.

Microsoft Dynamics AX

According to Weismantel, Microsoft Dynamics AX is positioned for the enterprise, including two-tier and vertical/industry scenarios.

"Primary customers for Microsoft Dynamics AX are core and upper midmarket organizations as well as departments, subsidiaries and divisions of enterprise organizations in manufacturing, distribution, services, the public sector and retail," he said. "These organizations mostly have multiple sites and are present in more than one country."

Christian Hestermann, an analyst at Gartner, sees it as more of a midmarket product. Which is it? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Microsoft has been moving itself up the enterprise application food chain since the 1990s and AX is where it is placing its faith to create a competitor that can stand against enterprise ERP giants like Oracle and SAP.

"Microsoft Dynamics AX offers broad and robust functionality and delivers low TCO through integration with other Microsoft products and technologies," said Hestermann. "AX allows support of multiple sites or business units in one single instance, including those that operate in different countries. Lean manufacturing principles are one examples of advanced manufacturing-oriented functionality."

Last month saw the release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. New features include making it purpose-built for five industries (manufacturing, distribution, retail, public sector and professional services). In addition, it has a model-driven layered architecture, graphical workflow editor, budgetary control, a touch-screen user interface, visualizations, enterprise search and enhanced interoperability with Visual Studio.

Weismantel said Dynamics AX 2012 development can be done in either X++ or in .NET managed code.

At the same time as its release, the company announced an aggressive campaign targeting businesses running Lawson ERP software and seeking to tempt users and Lawson consultants and VARs to switch to AX.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV, SL and GP

While AX seems to be gaining the lion's share of Microsoft R&D dollars, the company continues to invest in its other ERP properties. Weismantel identifies them all as SMB products, which Microsoft seems to define as 50 to 500 employees.

"Microsoft Dynamics SL is directed at project-based businesses, Microsoft Dynamics GP for financial management and Microsoft Dynamics NAV for local verticals," he said.

Hestermann called Dynamics NAV Microsoft's solution for smaller, single-site organization with an average number of users typically below 50 and with a variety of extensions being built or implemented by partners. He added that it includes an integrator for Microsoft Dynamics CRM and improved support for remote users.

"Similar to AX, NAV is highly configurable solution delivered exclusively by the channel," said Hestermann.

The latest iteration of NAV includes data entry enhancements such as the ability to make calculations in fields, single-cell data copying and Excel-like navigation. In addition, it has improved search and navigation features.

Microsoft Dynamics GP is aimed at businesses outgrowing entry-level accounting solutions that need a full-featured ERP solution that is easy to use, fast to implement, and adaptable. GP 2010 delivers enhanced personalization and reporting tools, dashboards with drill-down options and workflow capabilities to simplify business processes and approvals, said Weismantel. It is integrated with Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint 2010.

"Enhanced interoperability with Microsoft Office SharePoint extends information even further, eliminating the need to log on to Microsoft Dynamics GP and accessibility from virtually any location," said Weismantel. "Unified Communications integration extends connections with customers, vendors and employees through integrated instant messaging. Built-in integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM eliminates redundant data entry and keeps information up to date in your ERP and CRM solution."

What about Dynamics SL? Its primary customers are businesses pursuing billable projects or contracts for customers where the work performed largely involves knowledge work, such as consulting service organizations, engineering, research and development, said Weismantel.

"Other common scenarios involve both labor and materials, such as construction, homebuilding, trades contracting, network infrastructure, IT services and design-build firms," he said.

The latest version of SL 2011 has features for managing, linking and expediting retrieval of documents, emails and other correspondence related to ERP transactions. Added web services can be used to reduce development time for connecting systems such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Project Server 2010. 

 

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