New Look And Feel For Microsoft Business Solutions' Navision

The interface improvements will dramatically cut the number of clicks it takes to perform major ERP operations, an executive said.

“We’ve taken some of the more basic features customers work with every day from 20 clicks to four or five clicks,” said Jan Silleman, business manager of MBS-Navision, Copenhagen.

Navision 4.0, which will ship in the United States this week, also builds in more manufacturing functionality and better financial management tools, Silleman said. Navision targets small and midmarket companies--those with up to 1,000 employees--in wholesale manufacturing and business service arenas. Historically, Navision has pitched itself as a platform on which its partners build vertical solutions.

Business intelligence is also a focus. Navision 4.0 can tap into SQL Server’s Analysis Services and offers a new viewer for presenting the data in understandable ways. “You can use Excel, a known tool, but we’re also providing an external viewer, a third-party product that gives you fancier options. You can show a globe turning, for example,” Silleman said.

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Navision, which boasts 45,000 customers and 2,000 partners, is incrementally moving into Microsoft’s .Net-centric development camp. MBS’ blessing and curse is that it fields at least five major product lines--Great Plains, Navision, Solomon, Microsoft CRM and Axapta--all with different code bases and histories.

Rich Nissi, president of VerticalSoft, a Hingham, Mass., ISV specializing in food manufacturing and chemical industry verticals, likes the way the new version incorporates SQL Server notification services.

Navision itself still builds on its venerable C/SIDE (Client/Server Integrated Development Environment), built atop the C language. But it now offers better integration with .Net-based offerings such as Microsoft BizTalk Server and SQL Server, said John Kleb, principal at ICS Advantage, a Chicago-based partner.

Kleb also lauded the tighter, more seamless XML integration in Navision 4.0.

MBS continues to inch toward a unified “Project Green” code base, but that has been delayed along with the Longhorn operating system. Microsoft clammed up about Project Green last year and instead deployed more resources on incremental updates to existing products, observers said.