Microsoft has assured partners and customers that it will continue to enhance and support its current line-up of ERP applications for the next 10 years.
The software behemoth built up its Business Solutions portfolio through the acquisition of ERP vendors such as Great Plains and Navision.
Microsoft is now planning to use much of the intellectual capital gained through these acquisitions to build a next generation ERP package for its upcoming Longhorn operating system, but is moving to reassure existing users that their investments in current product lines will be protected until 2013.
Customers would be offered line-for-line functionality as part of their maintenance contracts with MBS as the products evolved, the company said. This meant that any module purchased today under Microsoft’s software assurance program would be able to be upgraded to the next version of that module free of charge in future years when the Longhorn platform was released.
“Our research indicates that the average time for a company to be running an ERP product is between seven and ten years,” lead product manager for MBS Australia, Ross Dembecki, said. “To my knowledge, this is the first public commitment Microsoft has ever made to a supporting a product for such a long period.”
Currently, Microsoft Business Solutions offers four ERP packages for mid-market and enterprise customers – Axapta, Great Plains, Navision and Solomon.
In June, new, slimmed-down versions of these solutions were released as standard editions for use by smaller businesses.
MBS has also committed a separate stream of research and development resources to extending the functionality of its existing products, working in parallel to those R&D efforts focused on the next generation of Microsoft’s software.
Such extensions include modules covering Business Analytics and Business Portals –both due for release in coming quarters.
Dembecki said that these modules were aimed at the “sweet spots” that most businesses would need, rather than an attempt to compete with large business intelligence vendors (such as Business Objects) or Portal software vendors (such as Hummingbird).
He said the Business Analytics module, for example, could not provide the detail of an enterprise package but simply attempted to answer the “top questions of your sales manager” by feeding data from the ERP system into a data mart that was searchable for the purpose of building reports.
Similarly, the portal module tackled the most obvious tasks a company would use a business portal for, such as employee self-service, a partner extranet or a customer order status page. And this functionality would be available out-of-the-box, fully integrated with the organisation’s existing ERP software.
Dembecki said that large-scale portal or business intelligence projects were very daunting to take on from scratch, meaning that many mid-sized organisations would rather purchase the basic functionality the business required from Microsoft and not have to worry about integrating legacy systems.