For Small and Midsized Retailers, Microsoft Enhances Integration of its Retail Management System with Great Plains and Small Business Financials

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 25, 2005 — As small and midsized retailers face increased competition from big-box retailers, it has become increasingly important for them to look to technology to remain agile. Responding to these retailers’ needs, Microsoft is introducing an enhanced integration of Microsoft Retail Management System 1.2 with Microsoft Business Solutions – Great Plains 8.0 and Small Business Financials 8.0.

The enhanced integration of these solutions brings new capabilities, along with new benefits to customers and partners alike. To learn more about the integration and its benefits, PressPass spoke with Mike Dickstein, director of Microsoft Point of Sale Solutions within the Microsoft Business Solutions organization.

PressPass: What is the solution that Microsoft is announcing?

Dickstein: We’re announcing an enhanced integration of Microsoft Retail Management System —which is our point-of-sale (POS) application for multi-store small and midsize retailers — – with Microsoft Great Plains and Small Business Financials, back-end business solutions. The integration will be available to Microsoft Great Plains customers on September 1, 2005 and Small Business Financials customers on October 1, 2005 as a no-charge, downloadable add-in from our partners.

PressPass: How does the enhanced integration differ from the current version?

Dickstein: The integration differs in a number of ways that are best described in terms of customer benefits. First, it will provide retailers with much-improved business agility and financial management capabilities allowing them to track their inventory all the way across the supply chain. This is accomplished through the enhanced ability to transfer both full and partial purchase-order receipts from Microsoft Retail Management System into the purchase-order processing modules.

The second benefit is an improved level of visibility into sales transactions taking place at the individual store level. We’re able to provide much more detailed integration between what’s happening at the specific store level — sales data, credit-card transactions, inventory movement — directly into Microsoft Great Plains and Small Business Financials.

The third benefit is increased general-ledger visibility, which is driving much-improved operational efficiency by eliminating double entry, such as pay-outs, surcharges and manual inventory adjustments.

PressPass: What was the driver for creating this enhanced integration?

Dickstein: In talking with our customers – small and midsized retailers – we’ve found that they are primarily concerned with inventory management, timeliness of information and providing superior customer service.

Inventory is a retailer’s most expensive asset, and the goal is to turn it as often as possible. But retailers without integrated front-of-store and back-office systems often find it difficult to achieve visibility into their inventory in real time and find it challenging to manage it very efficiently and effectively. Related to inventory management is reporting. Many retailers lack the tools and integrated systems to quickly access accurate metrics, such as average number of items per ticket and average revenue per transaction. Timeliness of information is another big issue. How quickly a retailer receives information determines how soon they can react. Having access to real-time retail information allows managers to make informed decisions that can affect the success of store operations. Greater integration from the front of store to the back office brings benefits back to the customer; a large part of the “customer experience” is simply having the right inventory in stock.

PressPass: Who will benefit from the enhanced integration?

Dickstein: Our target market is small and midsize retailers who are looking for a single, end-to-end solution that goes from their front-of-store application — their POS system — all the way through to their back-end financial system. Customers are going to receive incredible benefits from that — business agility, operational efficiency, extra visibility — to allow them to do make better decisions in their retail operations. We have lots of customers in the retail space who currently use just Microsoft Retail Management System or just Microsoft Great Plains. This gives them an opportunity to have a complete end-to-end solution using a full Microsoft stack.

PressPass: What about partner benefits? Can you describe some of those?

Dickstein: This is a great benefit for both our Microsoft Retail Management System partners and our Microsoft Great Plains and Small Business Financials partners. First, it gives them an end-to-end Microsoft solution, which allows them to focus their expertise and their investment on the Microsoft stack and translate that into greater business opportunities for themselves. It also gives our partners a competitive differentiator. There’s really no one else in the business solutions space who can bring this full front of store and back-office integrated solution to the retail industry. It also provides our partners who want to focus specifically on retail with everything they need from Microsoft to best meet the needs of their retail customers. It lets them build true expertise in the retail vertical because Microsoft has removed the requirement for the partners to do the system integration work. Instead, it’s an out-of-the-box solution specific to the retail industry.

Finally, bringing an end-to-end Microsoft solution to our customer base allows partners — especially Microsoft Great Plains partners — to go beyond the back-office conversation with a controller or a CFO to a conversation at a much more strategic level with the CEO about how he/she is actually going to run the entire operation, not just track financials. It becomes a conversation about operating the entire business, from the customer transaction through inventory management, supply chain management, customer tracking, all the way to the back-office financial tracking. That’s an exciting opportunity for our Microsoft Great Plains partners to really improve the level of engagement that they have with their clients.

PressPass: How does the solution help midsize customers with the challenges that they face?

Dickstein: Traditionally, retailers in midsize businesses haven’t had products built specifically for them. Retailers were either using a very basic product that was built for a much smaller retailer or using one that was built for a much larger retailer that was too expensive to implement and required too much customization. This combination of Microsoft Great Plains and Microsoft Retail Management System provides a much more out-of-the-box solution that will scale to the full needs of a midsize retailer.

An example of a customer using both Microsoft Retail Management System and Microsoft Great Plains is LoveSac — a really innovative, hip, nationwide-U.S. retail chain of close to 80 stores that sells comfortable foam-filled Sacs and Sactionals. They implemented Microsoft Great Plains and Microsoft Retail Management System together, and it’s created incredible benefits to their operations. They’re now able to carry much less inventory in their stores because they have better visibility into their supply chain and are able to balance their inventory more effectively to increase sales. They also have greater visibility into their transactions and sales at the corporate level, which allows them to make better decisions, as the data is now visible by store, by region and by enterprise. This allows them to react much more quickly to the latest market trends, understand what’s working and not working, and adjust their strategy accordingly. [For more information on LoveSac’s use of the Microsoft solution, see the case study]

PressPass: What is the long-term strategy for the Retail Management System -Great Plains product, if any?

Dickstein: We will continue to look for opportunities based on customer requirements to create even deeper integration, greater scalability and specific feature functionality for these customers.

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