Great Plains upgrades ERP

Microsoft Great Plains is scheduled to announce Monday an upgrade to its Solomon accounting and finance application that will include support for business-to-business applications and new supply-chain and project-management features.

Version 4.5.0 of Solomon IV, slated to be available next month, will feature automatic EDI (electronic data interchange) processing and will allow enterprises to generate all files in XML, said Eric de Jager, director of Solomon product management at Fargo, N.D.-based Great Plains. In addition, Microsoft's Visual Basic for Applications will be integrated into the Solomon ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution to allow enhanced customization.

The new features are designed to move Solomon from a pure financial application to an operational solution in order to run an e-business, de Jager said. "It's more than just a financial solution," he said. "It can be a great distribution solution. It can be a great project solution. I'm moving further into that value chain by providing more of an integrated solution for them."

By providing EDI data processing automatically, an EDI purchase order can become a Solomon sales order, and then enterprises can send out Solomon invoices via EDI, de Jager said.

"Processing data via EDI will allow our customers to save the time it takes to receive, enter, and error-check orders," de Jager said.

David Dobrin, president of B2BAnalysts in Cambridge, Mass., said a major market need exists for EDI support among Solomon users, who often don't have the resources to respond to their major customers and suppliers via EDI. But Solomon users still will have to find a way to translate the various EDI standards used by its customers to tap the new enhancement, he said.

"It won't be the boon that people might hope, because they still have to do a lot of work to conform with the EDI standards that are set up by their business partners," Dobrin said.

As part of the supply-chain offering of Solomon, Microsoft Great Plains added bill of materials and work order modules so enterprises can better track production costs and schedule work orders according to customer priority.

David Monroe, vice president of operations and research at Plant-Wide Research in North Billerica, Mass., said having a bill of materials linked to the supply chain is an "extraordinarily important" automation tool for Great Plains' midmarket customers.

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