The old relationship between internal line of business applications and business productivity software such as Microsoft Office might once have been described as “second cousins once removed.” The two software applications often sat side by side on the same PC, but they seldom spoke to one another and didn’t have much in common.
In 2003, the relationship improved to first cousins with the release of Microsoft Office 2003 and a young version of SharePoint, which made it easier to get information in and out of Microsoft Office products.
In 2007 the family connection was further upgraded with the release of Microsoft Office 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. With a new document format adopted by the most popular Microsoft Office products such as Word and Excel, communication with ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) applications became much easier. SharePoint had put on a growth spurt and soon became inseparable from ERP and CRM in the minds of many companies who were running them both side by side. It was at this point that Microsoft Dynamics, the business group within Microsoft responsible for ERP and CRM solutions, cemented the relationship with SharePoint by adopting it as the standard portal technology across all of its product lines.
Today the family resemblance is stronger than ever. Here are just a few of the ways that Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft SharePoint Server have become inseparable:
- User interface. The user interface is the “face” of a software application – it is what people see and interact with. A good user interface is intuitive, familiar, and easy to use. It improves productivity by minimizing the number of clicks required to get a task done. The Microsoft Office “Fluent UI” is used by all Microsoft Office programs as well as SharePoint Server 2010. It does away with menus and replaces them with a clear set of icons that are relevant to the task at hand. Microsoft Dynamics recognized the productivity benefits offered by the Fluent UI, and starting with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 began adopting this as the standard UI across all of its business applications.
- With the 2010 release, Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint Server, and Microsoft Dynamics now share this user interface, making them more consistent to use and easier to adopt.
- Connectivity. Just as beauty is more than skin deep, so the ties between Microsoft Dynamics and Microsoft’s business productivity infrastructure run deeper than just the UI. “Business Connectivity Services” (BCS) is a new technology that crosses Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, and can be thought of as “plumbing” for connecting business applications with SharePoint and Office. This is no ordinary plumbing, though. It enables some powerful new scenarios for Microsoft Dynamics customers, including the ability to update information stored in a Microsoft Dynamics database directly from a SharePoint site, and making it easier to take Microsoft Dynamics ERP information offline through either Outlook 2010 or SharePoint Workspace 2010.
- Analysis. The majority of Microsoft Dynamics customers use Microsoft Excel to analyze their business information. While there have been loose connections between Microsoft Dynamics and Excel in the past – for example, exporting a static list of data from a Microsoft Dynamics ERP or CRM solution to Excel – more complex exports often required code. PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel 2010 changes that, as a business person with a basic knowledge of their Microsoft Dynamics ERP or CRM data can link directly to that data, importing it into an in-memory database via a wizard. The net result is the ability to quickly create PivotTables or Pivot Charts that are pulling in data from Microsoft Dynamics ERP or CRM in real time (see a demo using Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010). New Excel 2010 features such as Slicers and Sparklines can then be added to bring the numbers to life and gain deeper insights into what’s happening in the business.
For current Microsoft Dynamics customers, Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 present an opportunity to bring together their business applications in ways that were barely imaginable eight years ago. As Greg Lush, CIO and COO of The Linc Group, recently said: “If you are running Microsoft Office 2010, take full advantage of that investment by connecting it to your Microsoft Dynamics business solutions in ways that you could only dream of in the past.”
To learn more about the ways in which Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM solutions work with other Microsoft products and technologies, including the business productivity software that people use every day, visit www.microsoft.com/dynamics/office2010launch.
Sr. Marketing Manager, Microsoft Dynamics