Microsoft Corp has announced the first Dynamics deliverable, Dynamics GP 9.0, which introduces Microsoft’s much-touted role-based user interfaces and is designed to be used via Outlook or Office.
Dynamics was formerly known as Project Green and GP refers to the Great Plains ERP suite. Microsoft took the decision to rebrand all of its business applications under the Dynamics moniker in August to demonstrate its commitment to the eventual convergence of the entire product line.
At the time it promised two waves of major development. The first, in the period between the Dynamics announcement and the end of 2006, would concentrate on delivering common client technology based around defined user roles and also enable deep integration with Microsoft Office. The second wave would focus on common server technology and a common process model.
Dynamics GP follows through on the first wave promise by delivering 21 role-based desktops and a range of related business processes that enable personalized desktops based on work roles, where information and available functions are tailored and relevant to the individuals function. It also offers deep integration with Office as well as Windows SharePoint Services and Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services.
Barbara Hoyle, financial controller at UK soccer team Blackburn Rovers, an existing Great Plains user and beta tester for GP 9.0, welcomed the Office interface citing reduced training time and increased efficiency as important business benefits.
She also rated role based user interfaces and believes they will have an impact on day to day usage because instead of having to navigate through a menu based system users will be able to access requirements such as reports directly from their individual desktops.
Although Microsoft supplies pre-configured role based desktops and processes Hoyle said it might be necessary to tailor them for her staff but is still assessing whether than it the case. Either way she considers them to be a very useful tool.
Microsoft is also committed to making analytics available across the board so the release also introduces a Business Analysis Cube for Microsoft Excel which presents transactional data form the system; and access to personalized reports that provides insight into the data that is important for their particular role.
Hoyle was particularly impressed by this function. A Business Portal Executive Center offers inquiry access to transactional details, KPIs, and interactive graphs, tables, announcements and reports.
GP 9.0 also starts tackling the integration issue among the Dynamics application range and promises integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM which is due this side of Christmas and will come with an updated XML-based processing engine that should enable deeper visibility into Microsoft Dynamics GP data.
A new web services engine in GP 9.0 includes 160 web services access points supporting 20 business processes, and through its use of industry-standard Web services XML APIs should also allow for customization and deeper integration with disparate internal and external systems.