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Dynamics: The Same, But Different...For Now

It's all butter cookies and, uh, Danish, we suppose (if Danish -- as in the sweet, sweet pastry -- is actually Danish, unlike french fries, which aren't French) this week at Euro Convergence in Copenhagen. (OK, so the only other thing we can think of when we hear "Copenhagen" is chewing tobacco, which just sounds so much less appealing than cookies and pastry -- or even fries. But go with whatever you like. Just use the spittoon, please.) And just as we've had from Microsoft at prior Convergence get-togethers, we've got messaging about the four disparate Dynamics suites cozying up to each other in some way.

Since Microsoft kind of sort of officially dropped the notion that it would eventually meld all four enterprise resource planning suites into one mega-suite, we've had fits and starts of messaging about NAV, GP, SL and AX and how they're going to relate to each other. A common interface among the suites seems in place, and this week Redmond took the unification message further by saying that it's developing a single code base for the for software siblings.

So...we've got, or will have, four suites (plus customer relationship management, no small piece of the puzzle) that look the same and run on the same code base -- which makes total sense, of course, because everything Dynamics is Microsoft now, and Microsoft's value proposition has long centered around integration and ease of customization and use. A single code base will let partners more easily develop from one application to another and integrate ERP and CRM into the rest of the Microsoft platform. It should also help considerably with intra-company data and process sharing.

All of this must surely mean that the old mega-suite idea -- once known as "Project Green" -- is back on, right? Same interface, same code base; easy integration with all things Microsoft, including potential money pots like unified communications -- we're nearing the end of Dynamics alphabet soup...aren't we?

Nope. Check the PC World story linked above. It (indirectly) quotes Kirill Tatarinov, vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, thusly:

"Users won't ever see a single Microsoft ERP product for all markets, since Microsoft realizes that business have different needs, [Tatarinov] said."

Won't...ever? Really? Somehow, we doubt that. Check out the entirely reasonable response to Tatarinov from an average user quoted in the same story:

"'I don't understand why they have so many different products,'" said Lars Jalve, financial manager for Transas Ltd., a company that makes navigation equipment for ships and managing harbors."

Well, Lars (and we do hope that you're enjoying the butter cookies), originally it was because Microsoft didn't want to cannibalize its ambitious ERP effort and wreck its Dynamics channel by announcing that there would someday be a mega-suite but making partners and customers wait years for it, thereby delaying or possibly just killing potential investment in it. (Actually, Microsoft did pretty much just that a couple of years ago at Convergence in talking about Project Green and then had to back off big time and change its message.) After all, why would a company buy SL today if Dynamics Ultimate (or whatever) would be ready in a few years? This isn't the operating system market; there are plenty of fully baked alternatives to Dynamics out there. Microsoft is, after all, the newbie here.

But now that Dynamics has, or will have, a common code base, a common interface and deep integration with everything else Microsoft, why not start talking up the mega-suite notion again? It's long been the elephant in the room at Convergence, anyway. Maybe introduce some sort of upgrade or migration path, or reward customers of current suites with an easier and/or cheaper route to Big Dynamics when it's ready? Start now, build for tomorrow -- that sort of thing. Because we at RCPU do think it'll be ready eventually, no matter how much Microsoft tries to say otherwise. And as long as Dynamics is still more flexible, less expensive and easier to integrate than its competition's products, there will be nothing wrong -- and a lot of things right -- with simplifying both the marketing and the message of Dynamics.

Oh, and while we're going on about Dynamics, here's a somewhat dry but entirely useful look at Dynamics Entrepreneur, a small-business product that, thus far, only our friends in the Netherlands (big shout-out to our boys in Rotterdam here) have been able to buy and sell.

Which would you prefer, the Dynamics status quo or a single suite? What's your strategy for selling Dynamics now? Let me know at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on October 25, 2007 at 11:54 AM