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Microsoft Dynamics AX looking more like SAP?

Mary Jo Foley has the skinny on what's inside the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 (aka AX5.0).
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Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor on

Mary Jo Foley has the skinny on what's inside the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 (aka AX5.0). Mary Jo thinks:

But what caught my eye most about AX 2009 when Microsoft recently demo’d it for me was how it is the showcase app for so many different Microsoft technologies.

Mary Jo also notes that:

Microsoft has been encouraging developers to integrate its Office Ribbon, its Windows Workflow technology and support for its Excel Services technology into their own custom line-of-business apps. Relatively few have done so, to date — for lack of tools, fear of becoming too locked into Microsoft’s stack and/or other reasons.

Hmm - I'm not so concerned about the third party app vendors because as SAP has demonstrated, if the core is good enough, development shops will build around it. The difference is that Microsoft positively encourages 3PD while SAP erects a pretty high bar over which wannabe partners have to scramble.

The bigger question for me is whether Microsoft is trying to butt up against SAP in deals. Last Friday, I spoke with Mogens Elsberg, general manager for Dynamics ERP about the latest release and what Microsoft is seeking to accomplish.

AX2009 takes Microsoft closer to a full role based computing model which will certainly satisfy those customers who want to operate in functional siloes. The Windows Workflow Foundation is being rolled into the entire application with current emphasis on payment processes. Longer term it will be interesting to see how Microsoft copes with competition that stresses the value of process based business systems. Right now that seems a distant ambition for Microsoft.

Microsoft is making a big play on compliance, saying that its ability to monitor processes and provide both alerts and warnings should assist CFOs in their process compliance activities. I'm not so sure. "We don't have processes aligned to specific regulation but we are working through the issues with our finance community to ensure the implementation of best practices,"  said Elsberg. This is wishful thinking.

Regulation has proven notorious to implement in software with any degree of certainty prior to audit. This is because the expertise necessary to both implement and then audit is not something that can simply be acquired from a single firm. What's more, the plethora of sometimes discrete yet interlinking regulation can create industry specific issues that require special attention.

However, as our conversation moved forward, I started to wonder whether Microsoft is trying to look more like SAP. The emphasis on having an Office look and feel (Duet anyone?), emphasizing embedded BI capability and that note about compliance all sound remininscent of things on which SAP wishes to score points. Given that Microsoft is positioning itself for businesses with 50 to 10,000 users, it is bound to come into competitive discussions. How real those discussions become is another matter but it will be interesting to watch.

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