REDMOND, Wash., April 5, 2005 — There are currently 7 million small businesses in the United States, with an estimated 610,000 new ones launched every year, according to AMI-Partners. Many of these businesses are Microsoft Office System customers who are looking for advanced financial and business management tools. Microsoft continues to deeply invest in helping small businesses be more efficient and better serve their customers through the adoption of IT solutions.
Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) are integral to Microsoft’s efforts to meet this critical business need and enhance opportunities for business customers of all sizes. Microsoft seeks to support ISVs with a wide range of tools and resources in their development process. Events such as this week’s ISV Forum 2005 help ISVs gain business knowledge and support through targeted offerings from Microsoft. These offerings help ISVs get an early start on developing their own innovative vertical solutions so that they can be ready for customers when a product such as Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting launches in early fall 2005 in the U.S.
To coincide with this week’s ISV Forum 2005 at Microsoft’s corporate headquarters in Redmond, PressPass convened a virtual roundtable discussion with Dave O’Hara, vice president, business development, Microsoft Business Solutions, and executives from three ISVs: Rafael Zimberoff, President, Z-Firm; Shafat Qazi, Chief Executive Officer, BQE Software, Inc., and Jason Saul, Chief Executive Officer, B2PCommerce Corporation. They discussed the opportunity for ISVs around the upcoming launch of Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting and how Microsoft is working to support their product development efforts.
PressPass: What’s the focus of ISV Forum 2005?
O’Hara: Our theme for the event is “Opportunity Knocks,” – appropriately named because we are highlighting new business opportunities for our ISV partners today to help Microsoft redefine business management for small businesses.
We continue to deeply invest in working with our ISV community to provide them with new growth opportunities to expand their business. As proof of this, today we are unveiling a wealth of resources that will make it possible for ISVs to kick-start their development and sales of solutions integrated to Small Business Accounting. These include:
Free product test – To help ISVs ensure quality control for their products, we offer free product testing until December 31, 2005. Normally it would cost ISVs US$600 to have their products tested at our external vendor.
In-the-box promotion – We offer ISVs the opportunity to have their solution and company described in a catalog that will be distributed inside the product. This is a great opportunity for ISVs to have the solution promoted to thousands of customers.
Online catalog – We are offering ISVs the opportunity to promote their solution in our Office online catalog. We will be driving thousands of customers to this catalog.
Development support – We have staffed the Microsoft support team with experienced developers to help ISVs with questions during their development. We have also created online newsgroups where technical development issues can be discussed. Additionally, we have released the source code to a complete sample application. Based on early feedback from our early adopters, they wanted examples, hence we developed a complete property management application for ISVs to take apart and reuse code from.
Marketing support – We are announcing a marketing offering called “Quick ramp”. This will enable the Small Business Accounting ISVs to seek funding for marketing initiatives to promote their Small Business Accounting integrated application.
Marketing templates – We have updated the Microsoft Marketing Services to Partners portal with Small Business Accounting marketing content, so that ISVs can customize a campaign for their own solution online.
Participation in other Microsoft initiatives -These are just some of the offerings that ISVs will receive as part of being a member of the Microsoft Partner Program. Small Business Accounting ISVs will also be invited to participate in relevant Microsoft events, such as Microsoft Across America.
PressPass: Can you describe the product and the benefits?
O’Hara: We are bringing together a unique, integrated solution called Microsoft Office Small Business Management Edition which includes the familiar Microsoft Office System, along with the new Small Business Accounting program and an updated version of Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager. With Office Small Business Management Edition, small businesses will have additional functionality for key tasks that help address their most important business management needs. This edition is set for public availability in the U.S. in early fall 2005.
Small Business Accounting will be an easy-to-use financial management program that is a pivotal component of the new Office Small Business Management Edition. When used with Business Contact Manager, it provides robust contact management functionality within the Microsoft Office System. As a result of this integration, small businesses can get a complete view of their business, manage their business finances, build stronger customer relationships, and provide employees with the tools they need to help them be successful. Small Business Accounting will include core accounting, inventory management, quotes, sales orders, invoices, purchase order processing, employee management, job tracking, banking and financial reporting.
Zimberoff: As an ISV that specializes in cost-effective shipping solutions, we at Z-Firm expect Small Business Accounting to win adoption very quickly by many customers, including those already using Z-Firm products. We have a customer base of several thousand businesses, a large number of whom use Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003 or Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003 to communicate with vendors and customers, track budget and business performance, write and present proposals and more. These customers appreciate business software solutions that fit with the way they work and that are easy to use and learn. That’s why we decided to integrate our existing shipping solution, a product called ShipRush, by using the software development kit (SDK) Microsoft has made available for Small Business Accounting.
PressPass: How important is ISV participation to the launch of Small Business Accounting?
O’Hara: ISVs have always been integral to Microsoft as they influence overall IT strategy in customer and industry segments. We’re committed to offering technical leadership and the resources to enable ISVs to build their business and better serve and retain their customers.
In this case, ISVs are playing a strategic role in complementing Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting by developing integrated solutions. We’ve created a SDK (Software Development Kit) that helps ISVs integrate their existing applications as well as develop new applications and Web services that integrate with Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting.
We’re working to ensure ISVs have access to the key technical resources they need to develop applications using Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting. Having resources available early like the SDK means that the ISVs we’re talking with today — BQE Software, Inc., B2PCommerce Corporation and Z-Firm — and other industry partners who are attending this year’s ISV Forum, have the unique opportunity to develop early and have their solutions ready to launch with Small Business Accounting. It’s our goal to provide platform and technical leadership in the market segment as well as development tools and business resources to help ISVs further expand their businesses and increase profitability.
PressPass: From an ISV perspective, has the SDK been beneficial to your development process and customized needs?
Qazi: We expected Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting to be a good program and have great integration tools; we were right. BQE Software decided to tailor BillQuick, our Time Billing & Project Management solution for service businesses, to Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting.
Almost all of our customers use Microsoft Office. We saw tremendous opportunity for us and a huge boost in usability for our customers. For time- and resource-strapped small businesses, ease of use is critical. If we can improve the customer experience with an integrated solution, our customer is happier and we can further solidify our relationship with them.
Saul: I agree with Shafat about the importance of ease of use. My company, B2PCommerce, creates easy-to-use, affordable business solutions for the nonprofit market segment. Our bookkeeping product, called NonprofitBooks Accounting, is part of the NonprofitBooks suite, which also integrates with our applications for donor management and outcome measurement.
In fact, by integrating our NonprofitBooks application with Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting, we believe we will deliver real value to the thousands of nonprofits in need of a solution. Our customers in the nonprofit industry tell us they need integrated information to have a holistic view of their organization. As a result of the solution we will offer, we are uniquely positioned to address our customers’ needs and give them the tools they’re looking for.
PressPass: As ISVs who have become involved in developing around Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting early on, what can you say about the process?
Qazi: We’ve always developed for the Microsoft Windows operating system platform at BQE Software and used Microsoft development tools and support. BillQuick was one of the very first applications written using the Microsoft .NET Framework. So the fact that both BillQuick and Small Business Accounting are written using the .NET Framework helped contribute to a smooth development cycle. Our experience on the .NET Framework meant the structure of the integration in Small Business Accounting was already familiar. We hit the ground running and didn’t look back.
Zimberoff: Our developers at Z-Firm didn’t expect any issues, but even so, they were surprised by the ease of the development process, which took a two-member team only a week. The SDK is rich in capabilities and extremely easy to use. By delivering an SDK with extensive resources, Microsoft really increases the skill set of my developers. Consequently, we can plan, build, test and deliver customer-ready solutions with much higher impact. And we found that a significant factor in easing development was the fact that the SDKs for both ShipRush and Small Business Accounting use the Microsoft .NET Framework which increased the efficiency and reliability of our development efforts.
Saul: We also had a positive development experience at B2PCommerce. We are using the Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting SDK to write our new accounting software. NonprofitBooks was already a multi-user solution that worked with the Microsoft .NET Framework. In our new application, core data processing and data management will occur at the Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting database level using Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine (MSDE 2000). The integration of our NonprofitBooks application with Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting will mean that we’re less platform-dependent than before. Now we will be able to offer all of our customers a choice of accounting technology with the same look and feel.
PressPass: What do you think integrating with Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting will mean for your business and your customers?
Zimberoff: Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting is a modern business accounting solution that isn’t burdened by the limitations of legacy technology. We expect to increase our sales by offering our ShipRush application which integrates with Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting. This will likely affect both our existing customers using legacy accounting products and small businesses not yet using Z-Firm’s products. With Small Business Accounting and ShipRush, I expect that large numbers of customers will migrate from their current technology to the, new solution.
I’ve watched the small business technology market segment for many years and I’ve seen how quickly customers can move from one technology solution to a better one that increases their effectiveness in doing business. Thanks to engaging with Microsoft and using the Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting SDK, we can offer a competitive solution to the many businesses that want to ship with greater ease and efficiency.
Saul: Our development team is creating a solution that integrates NonprofitBooks Accounting, Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting’s SDK and our Donor Management application with an updated, multi-user release of Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager. The result is that we will offer a complete, affordable business management software solution tailored to fit nonprofit business needs. Customers already using the Microsoft Office System programs, such as those who want to move from Microsoft Office Excel 2003 budgets and financial spreadsheets to true fund accounting or those who will acquire the new Office Small Business Management Edition, can choose the NonprofitBooks Accounting version which will integrate with Small Business Accounting. As I see it, our relationship with Microsoft will provide even more opportunities to combine our strengths and successfully deliver the best solutions to our customers.
Qazi: This is a win for BQE Software, too. We can now deliver a fully integrated, flexible and, more importantly, a complete business management solution to the professional services industry — including specific support for more than 14+ vertical industries within it, such as architects, engineers and accountants. Small business owners are getting more comfortable with technology. As that comfort level grows, so does small business owners’ courage to use software beyond Microsoft Office Word and Microsoft Office Excel. With the release of Small Business Accounting, I believe computer users in small businesses will gain the comfort level to move beyond Excel and Word and start using an accounting product like Small Business Accounting. If our customers who use Office programs acquire Small Business Accounting and continue using BillQuick, it will be a win for them and a win for us.