Microsoft is set to unveil a new product designed to more tightly integrate its back-end Dynamics business applications with its desktop Office suite. It's an approach the vendor has already taken with applications rival SAP under their codeveloped Duet software.
"Duet was a good learning example," says James Utzschneider, general manager of Dynamics marketing at Microsoft. "What we're offering is a superset of what you get with Duet."
Known as Microsoft Dynamics Client for Office and SharePoint, the new lightweight licencing tool was on display at Microsoft's recent Convergence conference in San Diego.
The Microsoft offering is a way for companies to give all their employees access to the information held in their organisations' back-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, without having to train them on Dynamics or equip each worker with their own full-blown copy of Dynamics. Instead, the workers can access the ERP information from within their Office applications or via Microsoft's Sharepoint Web portal.
The Dynamics Client includes as many as 12 so-called "self-service" ERP applications built in Office and Sharepoint. The applications include Time and Attendance for Dynamics GP, Project Time and Expense for Dynamics SL and Dynamics Snap Business Data Lookup for Dynamics AX.
The product is due to begin shipping in May. It comes in two flavours. Microsoft Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office and Windows Sharepoint Services costs US$195 per user. Microsoft Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office and Sharepoint Server, which includes a copy of the vendor's Sharepoint Server 2007 software, is priced at $395 per user.
"The feedback we got from Duet was awesome at the starting point," Utzschneider says. "But users said they'd like the ability to customise." The new Dynamics Client gives Microsoft's customers and partners the necessary access rights to information and processes managed by Dynamics so they can build their own Office business applications, where the suite becomes the front end to accessing the ERP data.
Microsoft and SAP released the first version of Duet in June 2006. The integration software enables users to access data and processes from SAP's mySAP ERP applications via Microsoft's Office suite. It includes integration capabilities for different business scenarios such as time, leave and organisation management.