By Khoo Boo Leong | Jun 7, 2012
Microsoft is gradually moving its lines of business to its own Dynamics AX enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, which will evolve as an enterprise cloud service offering in its next major release. "[Within] 90 days, we will have 45,000 users [using our Dynamics AX] expense management module [connected] directly into [our current SAP system] that manages our financials and human resource," said Michael Park, corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) sales, marketing and operations.
As part of Microsoft's plan to implement Dynamics AX one line of business at a time, the company's field organization under its COO Kevin Turner and 17 different divisions are running the Dynamics AX ERP application now. "So, the sales organization, customer support services, our legal organization, X-Box manufacturing, all the media production that we do, the consulting organization, our operations organization, order management, and license processing for the MBS division, are all powered on AX as individual workloads feed back the financials into the core SAP system," added Park.
The expense management module was "a nine-month project from the point we decided to start it to the day we implement it. We are retiring three bespoke applications and one module of SAP with it," said Park.
The majority of cloud deployments are in the hybrid space so "we're building a cloud [application that allows you to] decide where and how you want to go to the cloud - [build your own cloud, go to a partner-hosted cloud or go to a Microsoft cloud]," said Turner at the company's Convergence 2012 event for its ERP and customer relationship management (CRM) customers. "As long as you have Active Directory and System Center completely deployed, you can leverage the common technologies that we have across identity, virtualization, management, and development."
When developed, the expense management module promises a productive user experience. For instance, a photo of a receipt taken using a Windows phone can be attached to an expense claim for submission. "The system in AX basically takes care of it from there," said Park. "[Additionally], management exception reporting is delivered through Outlook. In the user experience, you really don't even know you are using an ERP system because you are using Outlook and your phone.
"That's where we see a huge benefit even in Dynamics CRM where many people use Excel as their primary tool. You don't even see the Dynamics CRM UI because it shows up inside of Outlook. When you create an activity or do a call, the CRM system automatically tracks that for you. You don't have to create a new record in a new form to say you made a call."
Last year, 48,000 Microsoft executives began using its Dynamics CRM. Multiple instances of the application were deployed but they are driven by the same master data. "Each CRM instance is designed to meet the specific needs of different sales organizations," said Park. "The way we sell to commercial businesses is very different from the way we sell to retailers. And the processes that different salespeople use are different. But Dynamics allows us that flexibility to meet the needs of the end user on a common architecture."