SAP and Oracle may be diving deeper into the midmarket, but Microsoft and one of its partners say the battle is moving upstream making it a horse race among the three vendors for enterprise customers.
Joe Gulino, the ERP practice director at Green Beacon Solutions, a growing consultancy based in Watertown, Mass., is almost giddy over the latest changes to the Microsoft Dynamics portfolio. And some analysts believe he should be.
Microsoft has been merging its various midmarket ERP acquisitions into a suite of applications designed around the familiar Microsoft Office environment. Potential customers are responding, Gulino said.
"People want to be comfortable with the product they're using because the focus today is on how quickly you can get staff up and running on these products and how much more productive you can get employees using them," he said.
The latest release of Dynamics AX, launched this week at the Microsoft TechEd user conference in Boston, focused on the user interface. But Microsoft has also extended Dynamics' capabilities by integrating it with Microsoft Sharepoint server, giving companies access to third party applications, including SAP and Oracle. The software maker believes its software is now so robust that its Xbox manufacturing division is switching from SAP to Dynamics AX.
Microsoft calls Dynamics AX a composite application, because it uses Web services to connect data from multiple sources. The latest version adds the ability to integrate radio frequency identification capabilities. It also allows end users to incorporate Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds around specific corporate data.
Microsoft's melding of Office functionality into the core ERP processes is far more extensive then the Microsoft-SAP Duet software, which incorporates some SAP capabilities into Microsoft Outlook, said Paul Hamerman, vice president of enterprise applications, Forrester Research Inc. Hamerman said functionality will grow with Duet, however Microsoft has taken a more extensive approach with its Dynamics suite.
Microsoft's focus on the individual roles of employees is rounding out its Dynamics suite, said Dave Coulombe, general manager of the Fargo Microsoft ERP Product Group. Employees are more productive if they can leverage tools from structured data to be able to search unstructured data in the form of Office and Sharepoint documents, Coulombe said.
"A lot of customers are coming to us not only from total cost of ownership perspective, but because of way we've been building the applications with an Office look and feel," he said. "We've had a large number of enterprise customers that are using the product and the number is growing."
Still, Microsoft needs to add more vertical industry functionality to compete on the same level as SAP's mySAP All-In-One software. All-In-One is built on the NetWeaver platform and through partners, SAP has been building out vertical expertise and is even getting into microverticals.
Dynamics AX has its roots in the High-tech manufacturing space, with most customers choosing the product for its ability to get up and running quickly with minimal maintenance and support costs, Gulino said. Green Beacon is focusing on selling Dynamics AX to industrial manufacturers. "We're adding more enterprise class customers and with that we're seeing SAP more and more," he said.
"A lot of customers are coming to us not only from total cost of ownership perspective, but because of the way we've been building the applications with an Office look and feel," he said. "We've had a large number of enterprise customers that are using the product and the number is growing."