Microsoft To Recast 'Project Green' ERP Game Plan

Next week, MBS executives are slated to recast their "Project Green" ERP plan as less an end-game and more a process of small, easy-to-navigate steps, industry sources said.

Project Green was Microsoft's grand plan to move the functionality of its disparate Great Plains, Solomon, Axapta and Navision product lines to a uniform code base.

The first phase was initially due last year. The effort then was aligned with Longhorn, the next-generation Windows. But that plan--along with Longhorn--slipped and partners beefed that Microsoft's message confused customers and stalled sales of its current lineup.

Microsoft plans to use next week's Convergence 2005 MBS event in San Diego to reset expectations and reassure the world that no current MBS users will be stranded, according to sources close to Microsoft. Many of Green's objectives will be delivered through a succession of updates to the current ERP line, sources said.

Sponsored post

Microsoft would not comment for this story.

"The whole [Project] Green message was a big misstep. Microsoft started talking about that and about MBS becoming a $10 billion business, and people barbecued them," said one Midwest partner, who requested anonymity. Now Microsoft is getting more pragmatic, this partner said. "Instead of talking about pie in the sky, they've improved their field-sales organization, their go-to-markets and verticalization," he said.

Microsoft is now expected to position Project Green as a research-and-development effort, and some fruits of the initiative stand to appear in successor products to the current lineup. Axapta 4.0 and Microsoft CRM 2.0, the next two major releases, expected in 2006.

In many ways, the new Project Green strategy mirrors other Microsoft efforts to pull forward promised Longhorn features, or "pillars," to work with updates to the current Windows lineup. Evolution, not revolution, is now the word in Redmond, Wash., sources said. Yet some noted that it's difficult to see how Project Green's main benefit--a uniform code base--can be achieved that way.

The company is expected to characterize Axapta and Navision, the ERP products it acquired in 2002, as its "global" ERP code bases, sources said. In the United States, the vast majority of MBS' revenue still comes from Great Plains accounting and ERP, which Microsoft bought five years ago.

MBS also is slated to introduce an "Industry Builder" program to promote a select group of U.S. Axapta ISV partners, sources said. "If you meet certain criteria and make an appreciable investment, they'll help you by marketing you as a 'Microsoft' vertical solution," the Midwest MBS partner said. That program, if successful, likely would expand to the other offerings down the road.

Still, Microsoft and its partners need to better differentiate the MBS products, since functions often overlap. Axapta is positioned as the solution for larger midmarket and bigger companies with needs for multiple currency support. Navision specializes in distribution applications, and Great Plains is known for accounting.

John Hendrickson, CEO of InterDyn Business Microvar, a St. Paul, Minn.-based solution provider, said he hopes to hear "a good discussion of the next version of Great Plains and more detail around [Microsoft] CRM Version 2, both in terms of capabilities and release dates."

His colleague, Alan Kahn, co-CEO of InterDyn AKA, New York, said most of the problems with Project Green resulted from rivals' marketing messages. "There was never any meat to any of the FUD around Green. It's just that the competitors were putting out information about migration problems, etc.," he said.

The issue with Project Green was that it "confused many people and was irrelevant to many of them" because it was so far in the future, Kahn added.

In any case, MBS has struggled with growth. MBS revenue for the most recent quarter was flat at $211 million from the year-ago period. Microsoft executives have said one reason is that more MBS-related services went through partners than through Microsoft itself.