FARGO, N.D., July 22, 2002 — For the past two years at Tech 2002 — an annual conference for technical and developer partners working with Microsoft Business Solutions — Microsoft .NET has been the focal point of many keynotes, round tables and strategy sessions. , Microsoft .NET-connected software simplifies the connecting of systems and devices, and augments on-site solutions with external Web services.
While .NET remains a hot topic at this year’s Tech 2002, which began here Sunday, the message is a little different. With the unveiling of the Microsoft Business Framework — a series of development tools, classes and runtime files that sit on top of the .NET Framework — Microsoft .NET actually made an appearance at the conference. For the nearly 700 attendees of Tech 2002, .NET-fueled code samples and new applications earmarked the beginning of an exciting new time for developing business solutions.
“Even before Great Plains was acquired by Microsoft in April 2001, we’d been working to really take the tools and concepts of .NET and use them to the fullest extent possible in our products,” says Darren Laybourn, vice president, Business Framework, Microsoft Business Solutions.
Developer partners have taken notice. “I expect .NET to have a great impact on how we communicate with our clients and also by making it much easier for our clients to communicate with their customers and vendors,” says Debra Bowen, account manager with D.A. Rainsberger Co. in Lansing, Mich. The company launched its IT consulting practice with Microsoft Great Plains Dynamics and eEnterprise. This year marks Bowen’s fourth trip to the conference. “.NET is new and exciting,” she said. “Being a leader on the next technology curve is fun.”
Laybourn helped kick off this year’s conference with a live demonstration of highlights from several new releases, including the soon-to-be released Microsoft Customer Relationship Management solution and a portal service called BusinessDesk. In addition to the live demos, participants also received a technology CD with new development tools for them to test drive on their own. Other presenters this year include Grady Booch, chief scientist at Rational and one of the original developers of Unified Modeling Language (UML), and Bonnie Robertson, director of organizational and channel development, Microsoft Business Solutions.
Laybourn also gave an overview of the Microsoft Business Framework architecture, which was developed to simplify and expedite the building of connected solutions. “We are committed to transforming our business solutions with .NET and bringing the entire Microsoft technology stack to life,” he says. “I’m very pleased to be able to preview technology that allows developers to focus on building the high customer value business logic for their vertical solutions rather than having to focus on the plumbing.”
Microsoft Business Solutions’ Ongoing Commitment to Partners
Tech 2002, according to Laybourn, underscores the value Microsoft Business Solutions brings to its partners. “One key differentiator is that we’re building both applications and the business framework they are created on,” he says. “This insures that what we are delivering from a business framework point of view has to work and work well.”
Laybourn says that the Tech conference is a great place for face time between Microsoft Business Solutions and its partners. “We have a significant number of developers in Fargo and many others coming here from each of our locations,” he says. “The conference is a perfect time for partners to meet with them, get coaching on their solutions, and create a roadmap for themselves on how to move forward with our solutions. And for us, we get to talk to people who use our tools and our solutions to find out what’s working best and what could use improvement.”
This year marks the first year that the technical conference is hosted by the newly formed Microsoft Business Solutions division, which includes what were formerly Great Plains, Microsoft bCentral and Navision, a Denmark-based company that Microsoft acquired earlier this month.
“All of the organizations that make up Microsoft Business Solutions have cultivated strong developer communities,” Laybourn says. “Our partners — who build on our platforms or extend with customized features — have been a core part of our solutions. Going forward, with the Microsoft Business Framework, we’re trying to get it to more business developers worldwide and enable them to extend our solutions in deep and upgradeable ways.”
Critically important to this mission, Laybourn says, is making sure that partners and developers have the ability to customize and to update from version to version.
Bowen said the Tech 2002 conference is a great opportunity for partners to learn more about the nuts and bolts of customizing and upgrading. “It’s my favorite conference,” she says. “The technical level is more in-depth than at other conferences. It’s definitely not marketing or sales.”
Bowen said her favorite aspect of the conference is the enthusiasm it generates. “It really gets me excited about the technology,” she says. “If you don’t go, you’re not going to know the technology on such an in-depth level.”
A Desk without Drawers
The conference also focuses on the Microsoft Business Solutions BusinessDesk, a Web-based portal solution that draws on the muscle of Web Parts, reusable components that contain Web-based content, such as Extensible Markup Language (XML) code, HTML pages, or script. The Web Parts within BusinessDesk provide ad-hoc information access or self-service solutions, all integrated with Microsoft Great Plains eEnterprise, Dynamics or Solomon. Using a team leader as an example, Laybourn walked attendees through the BusinessDesk experience.
A team manager page reveals the names of all team members who report to that manager. For each member there is data on vacation, salary history, performance reviews, expense reports, timesheets, requisitions, and calendars, which are accessible via integration with Outlook. And because the applications are all connected via .NET, the data can interact and weave together timesheets, vacation schedules, salary history and other data for a making it easier for users to make effective decisions based on the data at hand.
“From a programming point of view we have drastically simplified the work required to read, write, update and query data, making it very easy to build applications that are available from the BusinessDesk,” Laybourn says. BusinessDesk, he continued, is an ideal example of the fundamental shift that .NET will bring about. “It lets users see everything in one place, and everything is integrated to the back end.”
In addition to live demonstrations, attendees can choose from more than 50 concurrent sessions developed to offer tips and insights into the modules, features and functionality behind Microsoft Business Solutions software packages. Sessions include:
Solomon IV Release 5.0
Microsoft Customer Relationship Management integration
Big Enhancements for Small Business Manager 6.2
Understanding Transaction Through the Heart of the Financial Application
Also, hands-on training was available via classroom training before Tech 2002 and will remain available after the conference concludes July 24.
And because developers aren’t all about code, Tech 2002 mixes it up a bit with offerings like Tips and Tricks for Managing Revenue and Expenses and a closing session entitled The Power of Fear , developed to offer insight to participants on their ability to improve their own personal power to drive performance. “We have attendees who are heavily technical but also interact directly with customers every day,” said Laybourn. “You need to be an effective communicator to understand what customers need and want.”