Given the increasing globalization of business, companies need to incorporate changing policies, regulation and energy costs into their operational strategies. Over the past couple of years, events such as the Japanese tsunami and the Icelandic volcanic eruption have demonstrated that disruptions in one part of the world can quickly cause supply chain havoc in other areas of the globe.
Business software, therefore, needs to address globalization, as well as ongoing mega-trends such as the rise of Big Data and the impact of consumer technologies on the enterprise.
“Successful businesses must react with increasing speed to these changing conditions and must balance growing numbers of factors to achieve their true potential,” said Mike Ehrenberg, Microsoft technical fellow and chief technology officer for Microsoft Business Solutions. “Speed and complexity drive new software requirements, including the ability to facilitate connected collaboration and identify optimal strategies.”
To address these issues, Microsoft has released Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 and Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013. In addition, it launched a service update for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, introducing a better user experience; deeper connections with Yammer, Skype and Office 2013; and cross-browser support.
“While business strategy and implementations are often well-planned and carefully executed, the organization’s direction or the business environment could change at any time,” said Jim Desler, director of Public Relations, Microsoft Dynamics. “Microsoft Dynamics products accelerate the ramp-up process for employees and give people throughout the business access to data to make informed decisions.”
Let’s take a look at the main details of Microsoft's product refresh.
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2
Microsoft Dynamics AX2012 R2 is now available in 36 markets globally, after adding capabilities to comply with regulations in 11 new markets. It also introduces business intelligence (BI) capabilities based on Microsoft SQL Server. The idea behind the upgrade is to provide information to various parts of the business faster, more intuitively and in the context of what an individual user is doing.
“One feature of this update is that companies can run in multiple languages and countries in a single instance,” said Desler. “Ease of use and speed is critically important for better decision making.”
Obviously, such global functionality will be of most value to multinationals, but Desler pointed out that a growing number of small businesses also now have a worldwide presence due to a greater percentage of commerce going online. Running a single common, global instance, simplifies centralized international deployments for all available Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 languages. Customers can run all country-specific capabilities in a single installation to combine local requirements with the organization’s best global practices.
The demand for more pervasive business intelligence is another key element of the changes to AX. Microsoft has been working to offer users contextual and role-tailored insights. The update incorporates the BI capabilities that exist within SQL Server 2012, including Powerview, to enhance insight, provide advanced visualization and ad-hoc analysis.
“Customers may still choose to deploy country-specific instances,” said Frank Scavo of Constellation Research. “But they now have the choice to deploy a single global instance, centrally managed. For many companies, a single global instance of AX or a small number of shared instances is cheaper to maintain, provides tighter control over system configuration and encourages standardization of processes throughout the organization.”
Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013
For SMBs, Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 introduces a new Web client, more than 125 feature enhancements, streamlined management and better interoperability with other Microsoft technologies including Microsoft Office and Office 365.
To support mobility, users have the choice of accessing Dynamics GP through a rich client or a Web client. There is also a new hosting management console for deploying and managing Dynamics GP in the cloud. New RapidStart tools reduce the time required to configure the software.
“Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 was made available to businesses for both on-premises and in the cloud via partner-hosted offerings,” said Desler. “Microsoft made significant investments in the product’s hosting capabilities for using Microsoft Dynamics GP in the cloud.”
What’s Coming Next
These Dynamics releases are aimed at making it much easier for companies of all sizes to manage their business, whether in one country or globally.
“From a functional perspective, the horizontal and vertical enhancements make AX more attractive for companies who have industry-specific needs or who require advanced functionality across multiple industries,” said Gabriel Gheorghiu, an analyst at Nucleus Research.
Desler said that Microsoft is planning continued enhancements to both these Dynamics products over the next year, though he doesn’t have a release date yet.
“There is currently a Windows 8 app in development, which will be made available to Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics AX on their next releases,” he said. “This application will allow for the query and viewing of information, giving users access to current reporting capabilities, on the go.”
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Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).