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Microsoft Piles On Dynamics Apps Upgrades

Free new features include a financial reporting module, CRM integrations and an SAP connector.

Microsoft has been on a tear recently when it comes to Microsoft Dynamics applications announcements. This week the company added a new Management Reporter module for the ERP lineup. Last week it announced new CRM integrations for Dynamics NAV and an SAP Business Suite connector for Dynamics AX. In all cases the upgrades are free new features in the latest software.

Management Reporter for Microsoft Dynamics ERP is a financial reporting module that replaces Microsoft FRx, a legacy reporting tool built on aging technology. Designed for deep financial reporting and cross-functional analysis and reconciliation, Management Reporter has the familiar look and feel of a modern Microsoft Office product. It also takes advantage of the latest Microsoft SQL Server services. Advantages over FRx include direct integration to the Microsoft Dynamics ERP general ledger for simplified reporting, a building-block approach for mixing and matching reusable report components, and a report library where sensitive reports can be stored and securely shared.

The first release of Management Reporter works with Microsoft Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains). It's available as a free download along with a tool said to largely automate the migration from FRx. Future releases of Management Reporter will be compatible with other Microsoft ERP products, including Dynamics AX (formerly Axapta), Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision) and Dynamics SL (formerly Solomon IV).

Matching functionality introduced in last month's Dynamics GP 2010 release, Microsoft has announced a Dynamics NAV 2009 R2 upgrade that will include built-in integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Integrations between ERP and CRM eliminate data redundancies and are increasingly common, particularly within enterprise application suites. The R2 upgrade is set for release in the fourth quarter. Microsoft customers will be able to choose between on-premise CRM deployments or Dynamics CRM Online. The software-as-a-service version is currently offered only North America, but the R2 release is expected to coincide with a global rollout of Dynamics CRM Online also set for late 2010. Dynamics NAV originated in Europe and remains popular in that market.

In other R2 enhancements, the upgrade will include built-in links to Microsoft's Online Payment Service for online credit card processing. Built-in compatibility with Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) technology promises better support for remote Internet access and hosting scenarios.

Microsoft also announced last week that Dynamics AX will gain a connector to SAP systems. The Microsoft Dynamics ERP Connector for SAP Business Suite is set for release in the third quarter. It will facilitate two-tiered ERP deployments whereby companies use AX across subsidiaries, divisions and branches while still tapping into entrenched SAP deployments at corporate headquarters.

The general trend in enterprise applications is headed toward standardization and consolidation. But Microsoft cites research from Altimeter Group that shows that 32% of respondents to a recent survey are considering a two-tier ERP approach, citing cost as a key reason for opting for lower-cost ERP software at the subsidiary level.

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