Microsoft Launches Solution Finder In Preamble For Convergence '06

This weekend in Dallas, Microsoft will kick off Convergence 2006, its annual soiree for customers using Great Plains, Axapta, Solomon, Navision and CRM products--all of which now go under the collective Dynamics brand.

In a preamble, Microsoft on Thursday unveiled Solution Finder, a Web tool designed to help customers find appropriate VARs and integrators, depending on their needs.

The Solution Finder will launch with some 5,000 solution profiles. "It is available now in eight countries and will be in 17 countries by midyear," said Craig McCollum, vice president of sales strategy worldwide at Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS).

Microsoft also is slated to announce a list of customers trying its year-old Industry Builder program, which puts fully tested, third-party Axapta-based solutions on Microsoft's price list.

Sponsored post

For now, Industry Builder will remain an Axapta-only project, although it may be expanded over time to Great Plains, for example, according to McCollum.

"One thing we want to make sure of is how applicable this will be across Microsoft, and we've been looking hard at solution delivery models," he said. "Great Plains has some deep functionality in not-for-profit areas, so there may be some solutions that are industry-specific there."

In response to a question, McCollum said the much-decried delay to the Windows Vista client operating system won’t have an impact on MBS product delivery schedules.

Industry Builder is a good model but requires partners to make a considerable investment in time and money, said Vlad Martynov, president of solution provider Columbus IT. To-Increase, an ISV spin-off of Columbus IT, is an inaugural Industry Builder partner with retail and industrial equipment manufacturing solutions in the program.

"There are a lot of demands around training, on quality of support, on global support required,” said Martynov, a former Microsoft channel partner executive. “Microsoft is doing the right thing, setting the bar high. It's hard, but once you've done, it should get easier."

The program is a test bed for a strategy that would enable Microsoft to offer its own ERP and CRM solutions as well as partner with other ISVs in the same arena, Martynov added. "From a partner point of view, I see strong commitment from Microsoft and a lot of business opportunities. There is high demand for industry-specific applications. They're easy to sell if you have them," he said.

Convergence is a venue for ERP and CRM customers and partners to hear Microsoft big wigs, this year including Microsoft Business Division President Jeff Raikes and Chairman Bill Gates.

Some big issues that partners want to hear about are Microsoft's plans for a multitenant-enabled, hostable CRM implementation which has been promised and the company's plan to move to a per-user pricing plan for ERP.

Sources say Microsoft planned to discuss the latter topic at the company's partner conference in July.