REDMOND, Wash., July 12, 2004 — Just over a year ago, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer established the principle of “Integrated Innovaton” as a top priority company-wide to take computing to the next level for information-worker productivity and customer satisfaction.
As much guiding theme as marching orders, the mission to provide Integrated Innovaton is about ensuring that the value of the Microsoft platform is greater than the sum of its components. It’s the coordination of software products, the way entire systems can be made to work together better. It’s a strategy to add customer-driven features and functionality to achieve specific business results while reducing cost and complexity.
The progress Microsoft Business Solutions has made toward achieving Integrated Innovaton is among the subjects under discussion at this week’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, Canada. “Microsoft is building solutions that empower businesses and the people who run them,” says Doug Burgum, senior vice president, Microsoft Business Solutions Business Group. “Developing integrated business solutions is a natural way for Microsoft and its industry partners to join forces to increase return on customers’ IT investments. It’s always our end goal to find partner opportunity in perfect sync with consumer benefit.”
Integrated innovation holds the promise of a seamless user experience from top to bottom of the stack formed by related technologies: desktop, server, system software, applications for productivity and collaboration, business applications, and additional add-ons to satisfy specific business needs.
The pursuit of Integrated Innovaton pertains both to product and process. Integrated innovation is manifested in the Microsoft platform but it extends beyond the technology stack. It’s Microsoft’s approach to building software: simultaneously innovating in product design and development and tightly integrating products, each one with all the others. The goal of this approach is products and solutions that are easier to manage, simpler to use and deploy, and that provide greater overall value and lower operational costs. And the availability of a wide range of applications and solutions developed by like-minded industry partners increases the performance of the Microsoft platform and broadens the choices businesses have to adopt IT that serves their specific needs.
Partners Prosper with Integrated Innovation
A number of the practical advantages of the Integrated Innovaton approach are well illustrated by success stories of Microsoft Business Solutions industry partners, including some who will be making presentations at this week’s conference.
For Elypsis, a Microsoft Independent Software Vendor (ISV) in Napa, Calif., Integrated Innovaton is the key to providing better customer service. A leader in furnishing accounting solutions for the business community, Elypsis has built a special expertise in software to meet the financial needs of the wine industry.
Building on the Microsoft Business Solutions-Navision and Retail Management System, Elypsis developed integration and additional functionality to create a complete solution for wineries. Currently deployed at wineries in California and Australia, Elypsis’ e-Winery solution features include single database storage, a full financial suite, viticulture, vineyard management, cellar management, warehouse integration, wine club, specialized units-of-measure, customer relationship management (CRM) and point of sale integration with Retail Management System.
A typical winery adopting e-Winery goes from using six different software systems that aren’t integrated to a single, end-to-end solution. “Building on the very solid Microsoft platform and then creating industry specific functionality means everything to our customers,” says Martin Olsen, Elypsis’ director of Retail Software Solutions. “We feel we have an advantage over our competition as they are trying to develop their solutions from the ground up and keep pace with the change of technology. Our view is: why reinvent the wheel? Why not start with great base products and then add to these the functionality that our customers require? That way we’re always going to be on the leading edge, we’re always going to be on the latest platforms, and we can focus on what we do best, create and implement solutions that meet our customers’ needs. The Integrated Innovaton approach really benefits our winery customers, and we can see how it could be extremely powerful when applied to the needs of any industry.”
In addition to e-Winery, Elypsis Inc. has extended the power of Retail Management System with WineClub Manager. This integrated product, written on the .NET platform, adds complete wine-club management and order-processing capabilities to the already robust features of Retail Management System. This can be integrated with e-Winery or as a standalone solution. Smaller wineries can start with the RMS / WineClub Manager solution and as they grow they can migrate to the full e-Winery package.
Integrated innovation also enables Microsoft partners to develop strategic partnerships with other forward-thinking software vendors. “Nobody partners the way Microsoft does,” says Bryan Klann , vice president, Strategic Alliances and Channels for Hansen Information Technologies, a leading supplier of application software that helps manage the operations of government. “It’s in their blood, it’s their chemical makeup. When Microsoft rolls out a program like Integrated Innovaton, it makes it easier for an ISV like us to find other ISVs to work with together profitably.”
Headquartered in Sacramento, Calif., Hansen supports over 500 governments, including state, city, county, and special districts, covering over 80 million people who conduct over 1.2 billion transactions a year. Eleven of the top 12 cities in the U.S. run Hansen’s enterprise solution product suite incorporating robust solutions for citizen-centric applications such as building permits, business licensing, code enforcement and utility billing, as well as revenue management, operations management and business intelligence.
Working within Microsoft’s Integrated Innovaton environment has allowed Hansen to find partners to round out what Klann calls “the entire ecosystem of customer need.” Hansen’s enterprise suite primarily covers the operation, or public works, requirements of a municipality — building department, parks and recreation, transportation, water and sewer management and the like. However, Hansen does not have its own solution in public safety for police, fire and the court systems.
But as an ISV for the Microsoft Business Solutions-Great Plains enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite, Hansen works closely with other ISVs that have complimentary products. “The Great Plains platform,” says Klann, “allows us to go to a government agency and say, ‘Mr. or Ms. Mayor, here’s your entire vision. Don’t look at it department by department. Here is your city, and Microsoft has allowed us to bring in a coalition of forces on a common platform to provide you a complete end-to-end solution.’ That to me is really where Microsoft’s Integrated Innovaton affords us a strategic advantage over other vendors in the marketplace.”
Meeting Customer Demand
The trend to deliver Integrated Innovaton, spearheaded by Microsoft and supported by its industry-partner network, is an apt and necessary response to customer demand. “What customers want is to make greater use of what they’ve already invested in,” says J Jennifer Horrocks , president and chief executive officer of Vis.align, a top IT service provider with headquarters in Philadelphia. “Many times, the way to do that is simply to provide integration between one product they’re using and another product. And if that integration and the access to the data involved happens in a very familiar interface, then it not only simplifies the business process, it also gives the end-users the confidence to manipulate the data on their own. And develop a high level of curiosity in terms of trying to do more with the software and proprietary database in which they’ve already invested.”
Enormous quantities of information exist in businesses today. A given piece of data that has intrinsic value may be of even greater use when viewed in juxtaposition to other data, rendering a fuller and richer picture of the matter at hand. Where businesses rely on several separate systems, it can take a great deal of time and effort to bring a number of different pieces of information together — if it can be done at all. But in an environment of Integrated Innovaton like that provided by Vis.align to its customers, end-users can get more from the data that already exists in their business. Better decision-making is inevitable.
It’s in the mid-market, where multiple systems too often add up to an inefficient hodgepodge, that Vis.align excels in responding to customer demand for greater predictability and higher business value. Vis.align strives to be the IT service provider of choice for firms seeking a flexible partner with a full range of capabilities in managed network and desktop operations including skills in infrastructure and web enablement. The 12-year-old company’s customers include divisions of large organizations, regional firms, and global firms – all of whom are seeking high flexibility and commitment to value.
“The way it comes together for us, how we manage the operations — the servers and the desktops — for our customers is that they can now implement a single vendor platform,” says Horrocks. “They can go 100-percent Microsoft across the platform. We get better integration because the products are written to be optimized in an integrated environment unlike separate stand-alone products. The customer gets greater predictability: because of Microsoft’s release schedule we can tell our customers, ‘Over the next three years, here are the releases and the changes in the product that will affect your business.’ And we can make recommendations on required capital investment where there’s a need to update an IT environment.”
A Boon to Small and Mid-sized Businesses Across all Markets
Microsoft’s commitment to Integrated Innovation means that benefits from this resource-intensive approach to developing software is now available to the small and mid-market business segments. Historically, integration was a complex process that only the largest enterprise organizations could benefit from because the costs were prohibitive for small and mid-size businesses. The concept of Integrated Innovaton, providing industry-enabled solutions fully integrated into the customer environment, now enables Microsoft and its industry partners to deliver the same enterprise experience to a wider range of customers.
Solidsoft, an IT consulting firm with offices throughout the United Kingdom, specializes in working with large-scale enterprise clients. Further developing its business through a solid track record with global organizations, it has understood the great benefits of working in this area of interoperability. Using this expertise, Solidsoft can scale solutions to the small and mid-sized companies.
“The opportunity is now available through information management tools to create real interoperabililty with the consequent benefits of increased productivity, reactivity and consistency of service and operation. Add to this the ability to deliver strong and consistent messages and you can see why old-fashioned IT implementations miss the mark in terms of efficiency and return on investment,” says Solidsoft Chief Executive Officer Garth Pickup.
Solidsoft sees the Microsoft Integrated Innovation initiative providing new partnerships driving new business opportunities in new markets. “Using the Microsoft Business Solutions products and Certified Partner services, businesses can get all the benefits of an integrated system but built in a modular and customizable fashion,” says Pickup. “This in itself is a compelling proposition. Add the business process control, automation and workflow capabilities available when integrating them with Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004 and the Microsoft Office System, and you have a winning combination for our clients.”
Solidsoft’s approach to improving a customer’s business agility, a prerequisite for success, is to move them into an integrated enterprise. Enterprise integration enables multiple systems and applications to operate as one — bridging information gaps within and between systems. When applications and organizations are integrated, users can access and act on important information when and where it has the most direct and immediate impact on their business.
Beyond Pieces of the Puzzle
Reflecting on the success of Solidsoft, Vis.align, Hansen, Elypsis and many other partners, Microsoft’s Burgum says, “Integrated Innovation allows our partners to focus on their niche markets, on what they do best, and to drive deeper into their own expertise knowing that Microsoft Business Solutions lays the foundation. The bottom line is,the ability to deliver a better business result, and to provide customers unparalleled return on investment.”