(Dis)integrated Innovation


Now that Microsoft's Project Green has slipped into the Longhorn-or-beyond netherworld, Microsoft Business Solutions partners and others want to know what the plan is for bridging the-"ahem--diverse portfolio of Microsoft business applications.

The promised addition of yet another accounting package next year—the low-end Magellan is doing nothing to clarify matters.

It really doesn't matter much that Axapta and Navision and Great Plains don't really work well with each other. They're all based on separate code bases and a company that chooses say Axapta for HQ is likely to install same at branch or subsidiary offices as well. What IS a problem for these partners, is the lack of integration between all those ERP packages and Microsoft CRM. Unlike Great Plains and Navision/Axapta, which are products of companies acquired by Microsoft, MS-CRM is home grown. And it doesn't tie in particularly well with any of its MBS brethren.
(As an aside,why can't anyone just say ACCOUNTING anymore?)

But back to the story: Several European partners say that lack of Axapta or Navision links to MS-CRM is sorely hurting MS CRM adoption over there. Even though those two product lines incorporate their own CRM modules, partners say there would be significant opportunity to spread MS-CRM around IF it were a tad more integrated. Some savvy solution providers have taken the bull by the horns and are writing their own integration. A couple of ISVs, Nolan Computer and Scribe Software have done likewise as has Dallas-based ePartners, according to CEO Dan Duffy.

This whole piecemeal-apps approach exemplifies the larger problem that Microsoft's "Integrated innovation" strategy poses for solution providers. The lack of current links between islands of ERP and CRM is actually good news for VARs who code those links themselves and profit from it. Should Microsoft ever make good on the promise of Project Green, a unified code base for all the ERP/Accounting/CRM/business apps Microsoft now fields, it could spell bad news for these partners.

Microsoft's story, and one echoed by some of its partners, is there will always be "white space" atop the Microsoft stack. Others ain't so sure. And Microsoft rivals are making hay with Microsoft's foray into business applications which they say will sooner or later put the company at direct cross purposes even with such ISV partners as Siebel and PeopleSoft.

Oh, back to Magellan, Microsoft finally fessed up to its plans two weeks ago, saying it will offer another Office SKU with the accounting embedded next year.

It is still unclear whether the accounting part per se will be offered on a standalone basis, according to Microsoft VP Steve Guggenheimer.

Microsoft might do well to think that through long and hard. It has tried and failed to take on Intuit in many timeswith Microsoft Money, with bCentral offerings. At one point it gave up and tried to buy Intuit outright, only to give up in the face of regulatory concerns. Now it's apparently back at it again. Intuit, unlike Netscape and many other companies who found themselves in Microsoft's crosshairs, has dodged the bullet. So far.

In other words, stay tuned.

On another battlefront, here's John Dvorak's take on the impending Google/Microsoft search faceoff. As usual, The Register has its own lively account of Microsoft's touted Google killer. For more, see Got Google?