REDMOND, Wash. — May 26, 2005 — Today Microsoft Business Solutions announced that Microsoft Business Network will be discontinued as a standalone product and that current customers will be migrated to other solutions within Microsoft Business Solutions and Microsoft. To answer questions about the decision, PressPass spoke with Tami Reller, corporate vice president of marketing and strategy for Microsoft Business Solutions.
PressPass: Why is Microsoft Business Solutions going to stop offering Microsoft Business Network as a standalone product?
Reller: Our customers and partners have indicated that they want more capabilities than they are receiving today from Microsoft Business Network as a standalone application. We evaluated whether it made more sense to continue developing Microsoft Business Network as a standalone product or to incorporate and expand the Microsoft Business Network-related functionality directly into future versions of our business-management applications; we made the strategic decision to do the latter.
Here is an example: The electronic collaboration scenarios that Microsoft Business Network enables are back-office system integration intensive. For example, enabling a Microsoft Business Solutions-Axapta customer to electronically receive a Sales Order from a customer directly into their Sales Order Processing module and send the appropriate response documents via Microsoft Business Network is a key scenario that is back office integration intensive. The current iteration of Microsoft Business Network does not allow the user to drive this type of scenario directly from within Microsoft Axapta. In Microsoft Axapta 4.0 this functionality will be embedded within the application, thus enabling the user to invoke the transmission of transactional documents electronically from within the Microsoft Axapta user interface which is a deeper level of integration then currently offered.
PressPass: Did Microsoft Business Solutions consider options before deciding to not continue offering Microsoft Business Network as a standalone product?
Reller: Absolutely, though ultimately we believe it’s in the best interest of our customers and partners to incorporate Microsoft Business Network functionality into our core long-term business management applications strategy.
We have learned many useful lessons through Microsoft Business Network during the past year, and have decided to proactively act on these experiences to provide the optimum balance of value and functionality to our customers and partners. This strategy alignment is an enhancement to our overall connectivity strategy.
PressPass: What does this shift in strategy mean for organizations that currently use Microsoft Business Network?
Reller: We have taken extraordinary measures to ensure the overall experience for those customers and partners that have licensed Microsoft Business Network will be maintained. Microsoft will be reaching out to all existing partners and customers to determine what is best for them on an individual basis. In most cases the customers will transition to an alternative solution via their trusted Microsoft industry partner.
PressPass: What will Microsoft do with the partners that have invested in MBN expertise?
Reller: Microsoft will reach out to all partners that we have been actively engaged with to determine a plan of action for their Microsoft Business Network customers. Also, Microsoft will be providing a series of communications designed to educate our partners on the appropriate next steps for any Microsoft Business Network leads in the channel and how to manage all future requests for electronic collaboration enablement of Microsoft technologies.
PressPass: In which products will Microsoft Business Network-like technology be included? What are the benefits of that?
Reller: All major Microsoft Business Solutions products will support Web services and eXtensible Markup Language (XML); specifically, XML-formatted business documents as a core interface for exchanging information.
Each solution will have its own flavor, which we’ve based on the business challenges of organizations that use the specific business management solution. This strategy will allow us to provide a deeper level of integration for electronic collaboration scenarios using built-in support for Web services and XML support for Microsoft Office products. This model allows for greater flexibility and richness in the type of networks and peer-to-peer relationships that can be formed across supply and distribution chains.
PressPass: Will the embedded strategy for MBN-type scenarios include Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) interconnectivity?
Reller: We realize the importance of electronic document exchanges such as EDI and similar technologies — which have been used by small and mid-sized businesses and divisions of larger enterprises for more than a decade. We are therefore planning to enhance our business management applications to better deliver EDI interconnectivity together with our third-party partners.
PressPass: Hasn’t Microsoft Business Network been a part of Microsoft’s overall Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) strategy?
Reller: Yes, Microsoft Business Network has been part of the Microsoft Business Solutions RFID strategy on a pilot basis. The discontinuation of Microsoft Business Network as a standalone product will not affect the work being done in regards to meeting our customer’s RFID requirements. The functionality that Microsoft Business Network added to the RFID business solutions strategy will be offered in future versions of our business management applications as part of our embedded strategy for connectivity scenarios.
It’s essential that data gathered by RFID scanners and tags be efficiently translated back into the business management system, therefore our new strategy for embedded Microsoft Business Network-like scenarios will result in a tighter integration and smoother, more efficient supply-chain management for organizations delving into the world of RFID.
PressPass: How will this change impact Microsoft Business Solutions’ overall supply chain management strategy?
Reller: We will facilitate more efficient ways of conducting the business transactions that are critical to our customers’ success. The capabilities provided by Microsoft Business Network have proven their importance to our customers’ overall approach to managing their supply chains, and the shift to include those capabilities in our existing business management applications is a reflection of that. Also, today’s announcement reaffirms our commitment to expanding the scope of what we do with Web services, as evidenced by built-in Web services support.
PressPass: What will become of the partnerships that Microsoft Business Solutions has established with ICC and Inovis in regards to EDI technology?
Reller: We intend to continue to build upon these relationships. The team members responsible for these engagements remain an integral part of our long term ISV and VAR engagement strategy. Therefore, we intend to proactively engage with our partners ICC and Inovis and determine how best to work together to provide enhanced solutions for our mutual customers’ EDI interconnectivity needs.