MS updates Solomon; CRM integration still in progress

A new version of Microsoft's Solomon suite of enterprise applications for midsize companies was released Tuesday, featuring deeper integration with other Microsoft products and new software for project administration.

Solomon 5.5 includes Microsoft's newly developed Professional Services Automation package, announced in September. The software works in conjunction with Microsoft Project 2002, also included in Solomon 5.5, and enables tracking of various aspects of ongoing projects, including budgets, billing and staffing.

The new version of Solomon, which Microsoft describes as a "fine-tuning release," includes changes to four of Solomon's 10 "series," which are bundles of modules for handling various corporate operations.

Solomon's Financial Series now includes updated time entry screens and functionality allowing multiple checks per employee per pay period to be printed. The Project Series and Service Series feature additional modules and easy-of-use enhancements, and Solomon's core Foundation Series includes extended report management capabilities.

Also added globally to Solomon is a new Smart Tag Manager linking Solomon with Microsoft's Office XP suite. Users can now connect across the applications information on customers, vendors, inventories and employees, Microsoft said.

Solomon is a product of Microsoft's midmarket-aimed Business Solutions unit, which also created the company's Microsoft CRM (customer relationship management) software. In pitching Microsoft CRM, Microsoft emphasized the software's planned integration with other Business Solutions products, including Solomon, but five months after Microsoft CRM's release, that integration remains under development. No timeline is yet available for when that work will be finished, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman.

Solomon 5.5 is now available in the U.S. and Canada through Microsoft Business Solutions resellers. Versions customized for users in other countries will be released throughout the next year, Microsoft said. Costs vary for Solomon 5.5, but Microsoft estimates the starting cost of a typical, three-user financial version of the software at US$12,700.

Microsoft has also released in the U.S. and Canada a basic version of Solomon, Solomon Standard, aimed at smaller companies. Solomon Standard's target audience is organizations with 25 to 99 employees, annual revenue of up to $25 million, and up to 10 licensed users, according to Microsoft. A typical single-user license costs $4,900, the company said.

While Solomon Standard is a new entry in Microsoft's catalog, the product is essentially a renamed version of its predecessor, Solomon Standard, according to Microsoft.

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