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The Unlikely Underdog Is Ready To Strike

Soccer isn't like real life. Anybody who has been watching the World Cup this week understands this. Here at TechEd, multiple TVs have beamed the games to bemused spectators (although most of the serious viewers have foreign accents) all over the convention hall. Not that I’ve been watching soccer instead of working, of course. I would never do that...ahem. Hey, it's not as though there's been a massive amount of news here this week.

Anyway, in real life, the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world, absolutely dominant economically, militarily and culturally. In real life, we kick...well, you know. But in soccer life, Brazil is the superpower, and countries like the Netherlands and Argentina are powerful forces that strike fear into their opponents. Soccer life is, in many ways, the world turned upside-down, a parallel universe in which the real-world superpower is a scrappy underdog that still gets schooled by smaller nations on the big stage (see Czech Republic 3, U.S. 0 on Monday of this week).

And here, to some extent, we can draw a comparison to Microsoft's entry into the enterprise resource planning space, Dynamics. Microsoft Dynamics is a little bit like U.S. soccer. It's the superpower's effort in a new arena in which other monsters already exist -- Oracle and (especially) SAP being the two most notable. ERP is a sort of parallel software universe in which Microsoft isn't everybody's default choice. Redmond Channel Partner magazine covered the rise of Dynamics in our June issue.

The difference between Dynamics and US Soccer, though, is that Microsoft isn't likely to struggle for years to gain a foothold among the contenders. In fact, even with a series of suites pieced together here and there that won't fully come together for at least a couple more years, Microsoft is making headway in ERP. And it's not just winning battles among its stated target market of small and midsize businesses; it's also moving into big enterprise accounts. Sales of the Dynamics AX suite, for instance, are growing faster in the enterprise space than anywhere else -- and they’re growing at about a 30 percent clip annually.

Why is Microsoft moving up so quickly on the big side of ERP? A few conversations with IT folks here at TechEd were pretty revealing. First of all, the full, native integration of Dynamics into Windows and Office has obvious, old-school Microsoft appeal. Also, Dynamics apps seem to be pretty easy to use compared to their less-intuitive competitors.

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Beyond that, Microsoft's position as the unlikely underdog in ERP is a huge advantage for the company and its partners. SAP is the ogre here -- and IT types complain that the German software vendor doesn't do a great job of listening to their concerns, while Redmond and its partners are much more open and flexible. For once, Microsoft gets to play the role of "good guy" in a part of the software market. On top of that, lots of big companies are mired in multi-million-dollar, multi-year SAP implementations that are sapping resources and frustrating IT professionals, users and executives alike and delivering questionable ROI in return.

That's not to say that SAP is in any serious trouble. It's still the industry standard (along with, to a lesser extent, Oracle) for big ERP implementations, and it has a massive user base that won't soon be dumping SAP applications and technologies that took years and millions of dollars to implement. However, Microsoft is already nipping at the European giant's heels, moving with Dynamics into branches of big companies that have resisted the SAP implementations that corporate has tried to shove down their throats.

For once, instead of being the empire, Microsoft is the revolution -- and the battle is well underway.

Have you sold Dynamics to any SAP or Oracle Customers? What do you think of plans for the suites? Let me know at lpender@rcpmag.com.

And Speaking Of Dynamics...
Redmond says that Dynamics NAV will be the first Microsoft business application for Vista. You know, whenever Vista comes out.
http://www.itworld.com/App/670/060612dynamics/

Redmond Plays Nice With Others
It's not every day that I get to type (much less try to say) "interoperability" in connection with Microsoft, but here we are! Microsoft wants customers to help the company make its apps more friendly with those that don't originate from Redmond.
http://news.com.com/Customers+to+advise+Microsoft+on+software+
linking/2100-1001_3-6083664.html

What do you think of Microsoft's interoperability efforts? Couldn't we come up with a shorter word for that concept? Let me know your thoughts lpender@rcpmag.com.

You Call That A Strike?
Not that I had noticed, but apparently the drivers of some of the shuttle buses at TechEd went on strike this week (and, no, it wasn't over Vista delays or the price of Office). Whatever. I used to live in France, and I can tell you that whatever is happening here doesn't look anything like a strike to me. Where are the chants, the riot police, the blocked-off streets and the angry townspeople? It seems as though our striking ability just about matches our soccer acumen these days.
http://www.microsoft-watch.com/article2/0,2180,1976650,00.asp

Posted by Lee Pender on June 14, 2006 at 11:53 AM


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