Microsoft must rue the day a few years back that the company hatched the 'Project Green' idea.
Green was Microsoft's plan to unify its four ERP applications. Initially, Microsoft officials said Green would culminate in a single, Microsoft-branded ERP product that would take the best features of the existing four ERP products and meld them together. Before Microsoft got to that point, according to the Green roadmap, the Micrososft Business Solutions team would roll out new "waves" of its existing ERP products that used shared elements, such as a common workflow engine and business-intelligence tools.
Microsoft Business Solutions officials are no longer talking about Green. But that does not mean Microsoft has abandoned Green or its underlying concepts, said James Utzschneider, general manager of product marketing for Microsoft Dynamics.
"What has changed is how we communite with our partners and customers," Utzschneider said. Microsoft learned that its partners and users weren't so keen on Microsoft saying it planned to kill off products with which they had experience, he said. "Plus, all the ERPs we have are healthy businesses."
Additionally, Microsoft has followed through with many of the goals it originally outlined with Green, Utzschneider contended.
"Dynamics GP and Dynamics NAV really do look a lot like each other," Utzschneider said. And with the next releases of its point products, Microsoft will be introducing the same business-intelligence and workflow engines across these two -- as well as its other two (SL and AX) products," he added.
What's less clear-cut is whether Microsoft ultimately plans to follow through with its plan to unify its ERP suite. The public answer, repeated by several Microsoft Business Solutions executives at the Microsoft Convergence ERP/CRM conference in San Diego this week, is no.
But Utzschneider was not quite so definitive.
"Even if we move to one common platform, it doesn't mean that we have to kill the existing ERP products," he said. "We have learned we can run a surprisingly efficient R&D shop by sharing code across the different ERP products that we have."
The plan of record -- even though Microsoft no longer refers to it publicly as "Green" -- is to introduce at some point in the next decade a round of releases of its ERP products where Microsoft's four ERP lines all look and feel remarkably similar, he said.
Ultimately, "we could have Dynamics without the little (GP, AX, SL and NAV) appendages," Utzschneider said.
My take away: The spirit and goals for Green are still alive and well.