Microsoft Ships BI Enhancements, Extensions For Great Plains 8.0

On the business analytics front, Microsoft announced business intelligence components that have been extended for the MBS-Great Plains Professional Edition.

The new modules include MBS Great Plains Analysis Cubes for Excel, Key Performance Indictors for MBS Business Portal, Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley, SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services Report Packs and an enhanced SmartList Builder.

The most significant module, Analysis Cubes for Excel, provides OLAP cubes for common financial tasks such as general ledger, accounts receivables and accounts payable. The module allows customers to pull data from SQL Server into Excel.

Microsoft's OLAP cubes are derived from Webhouse server, acquired earlier this month from Professional Advantage, an MBS partner based in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia and Fargo, N.D. The software was designed for in-depth analysis of Great Plains business data.

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The Redmond, Wash., company also used the code to develop the new BI foundation layer for Great Plains 8.0 Professional Edition, originally released last June. Version 8 offered new integration with Microsoft Office 2003 and the Microsoft Business Solutions Business Portal. The analytics module will allow Great Plains 8.0 customers to deploy sophisticated OLAP cubes for data mining across their organization, partners said.

"Customers need better BI capabilities," said Howard Diamond, chairman of ePartners, a Dallas-based MBS partner. "That's absolutely a big need right now."

Microsoft also announced on Monday new Performance Indicators for the MBS Business Portal and an MBS Portal 2.5 Feature Pack. The indicators -- which yield data such as sales comparisons by month, quarter or year, or a supplier's percentage of on-time deliveries -- will improve portal use. The new feature pack incorporates security-enhanced data access policies for customers and a Human Resources Management Self-Service suite that allows managers to check the status of employees' timecards.

Microsoft's new Extender Module will allow Great Plains customers and VARs to easily modify and customize their business processes. The new Grant Management Module allows non-profit organizations and public sector groups to better manage their grants and ensure compliance with regulations from within Great Plains 8.0, Microsoft said.

On the SQL Server 2000 front, Microsoft includes eight templates for the Great Plains 8.0 reporting service packs. Templates comprise Open Orders, Commissions, Customer Profitability, Inventory Value, Open Purchase Orders by Vendor, Back-Ordered Quantities Without Open Purchase Orders, Employee Capacity and Work Center Capacity .

Additionally, Microsoft improved the flexibility of SmartList Builder, giving customers an unlimited choice in defining ad hoc queries of Great Plains 8.0 data.

Microsoft's extension modules for Great Plains 8.0 are available now. The analytics foundation code will be added to the Great Plains platform by the end of March. Microsoft will begin shipping Great Plains 8.5 and MBS Business Portal 3.0 upgrades in the fourth quarter of 2005.