REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 20, 2006 — Microsoft today announced the release of Microsoft Dynamics Snap, a new collection of software programs that snap in to Microsoft Office 2003. These four new programs help enable information workers to easily coordinate and manage data in certain Microsoft Dynamics business management solutions using the familiar interface of Microsoft Office 2003. These applications can enhance the productivity of information workers by allowing them to access and use business processes and data from business management solutions back-end applications like Microsoft Dynamics AX 3.0 (formerly Microsoft Business Solutions-Axapta) and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, directly from within certain Microsoft Office applications.
The new programs are available on GotDotNet.com and enable users to enter or retrieve data using Microsoft Dynamics AX 3.0 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, within the familiar Office client environment. Microsoft partners and other independent software vendors (ISVs) can benefit by using the shared source code in the Snap-ins that have been developed for Microsoft Office to enhance or customize the shipped solutions or to use them as examples to build new composite applications for their customers.
Satya Nadella, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Business Solutions Group
PressPass spoke with Satya Nadella, Microsoft corporate vice president, Microsoft Business Solutions Group, to learn more about today’s release and what it means for customers and ISVs.
PressPass: What is Microsoft Dynamics Snap?
Nadella: Microsoft Dynamics Snap is a collection of products for Microsoft Office 2003 users to work with certain Microsoft Dynamics applications and is another example of our strategy to deliver business management solutions that fits with our customer’s existing systems. It is a set of four programs that “snap in” to Office 2003, making it easier for users to use Microsoft Office Outlook calendar data as part of a business process managed by certain Microsoft Dynamics solutions, or to easily pull business data managed by certain Microsoft Dynamics solutions and use it as part of a collaboration, email, or document managed by Microsoft Office 2003.
We have articulated a vision for Microsoft Dynamics (the new name for the research and development roadmap formerly code-named “Project Green”) that involves two waves of releases. One of the key goals of the first wave is to deliver a user experience that is deeply integrated with Microsoft Office by using a roles-based approach. Today’s announcement of Microsoft Dynamics Snap offers evidence of the progress we are making against that goal.
PressPass: Can you tell us more about the four Microsoft Dynamics Snap programs you are announcing today, and how do they benefit customers?
Nadella: The first group of programs, available today, include: Timesheet Management Snap-In, Vacation Management Snap-In, and two flavors of a Business Data Lookup Snap-In, one for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 and the other for Microsoft Dynamics AX 3.0.
Screenshot: Timesheet Snap-In
Timesheet Snap-In, developed for Microsoft Dynamics AX 3.0, allows users to use Microsoft Outlook to view or submit time entries for tasks that are performed on a periodic basis. This solution links Microsoft Dynamics AX time entries with Outlook appointments and meetings, automatically filling in the data and helping track changes the user makes to linked appointments or meetings. This helps save users the time and trouble of correlating those tasks, and reduces errors as a result of users having to transpose data from one program to another. This will be very useful for Microsoft Dynamics AX customers in service industries or who have a requirement for employees to track how they allocate their time across multiple internal projects.
Screenshot: Vacation Management Snap-In
Vacation Management Snap-In, developed for Microsoft Dynamics AX 3.0, allows users to submit vacation requests using Microsoft Outlook. This triggers an e-mail to the approver, who can view details of the request along with the requestor’s vacation history, and approve or reject the request. The vacation time entry is then automatically updated into the Microsoft Dynamics time and attendance module.
Business Data Lookup Snap-In, developed for Microsoft Dynamics AX, allows business workers to use the Microsoft Dynamics AX task pane to search and browse Microsoft Dynamics AX data using Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office Excel or Outlook, and to copy selected data into Office 2003 documents or attach the Office documents to Microsoft Dynamics AX records. One of the many useful scenarios for this includes sending order status e-mails to customers.
Business Data Lookup Snap-In, developed for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, allows business workers to search and browse customer relations management (CRM) data using the familiar Office 2003 environments of Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook. Using a CRM task pane, users can copy data into Microsoft Office documents or attach the Microsoft Office documents to CRM records.
Screenshot: Business Data Lookup Snap-In
PressPass: How will Microsoft distribute these programs?
Nadella: We are initially making them available at no charge for download as a Code Gallery project called Microsoft Dynamics Snap on GotDotNet.com, a community site where developers and IT professionals can share, evaluate and build evolving .NET applications, code, ideas, and technical documents. We will also provide the source code for these solutions from a linked Web site on GotDotNet.com under the Microsoft Permissive License, making this site a natural fit for us to share these programs. This allows our partners and customers to modify these snap-in programs and distribute them to others.
PressPass: Who is the target audience for Microsoft Dynamics Snap?
Nadella: These solutions are designed for information workers who use Microsoft Office 2003 and need to access business information and business processes managed by their back end Microsoft Dynamics financial management and CRM applications. Most people want to be able to do this without opening multiple programs, cutting and pasting data, or having to master the full complexity of all of the software in a company just because they want to be able to, for example, accurately allocate the amount of their time they spend working on a specific project. At a grand level, we describe this as bridging the worlds of business productivity and personal productivity, but at a personal level it comes down to the simple fact that we want to build software that works the way people really work.
PressPass: What are some of the problems users face that prompted Microsoft to develop these solutions?
Screenshot: Business Data Lookup Snap-In
Nadella: Some of the pain points that we tried to address with these snap-ins include typical day-to-day tasks that information workers encounter, such as duplicating data entry tasks by tracking time-sensitive information in one place, then having to re-enter it into a database in Microsoft Dynamics AX, having to copy and paste information from a database into a spreadsheet or e-mail, and having to switch between business management solutions and Microsoft Outlook to copy and send information.
PressPass: And how do these programs solve those problems?
Nadella: First, these solutions make working with business management data less complicated and intimidating by giving users access to data and business processes from within Microsoft Office 2003, an environment that is familiar to them. Users can simply open a task pane to locate and transfer business information seamlessly from Microsoft Dynamics AX 3.0 or Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 into Microsoft Word, Excel or Outlook. And it works the other way, too. For example, a user can create a Microsoft Outlook appointment and automatically file a linked time entry in the Microsoft Dynamics AX database that tracks work schedules or vacations. We designed these solutions to make information workers’ jobs easier by simplifying the tasks of locating, filing and using back-end data — with minimal user training required.
PressPass: How do these solutions relate to the Microsoft Dynamics roadmap? And is this announcement part of a larger strategy?
Nadella: We as a team have always been focused on seamless interoperability between Microsoft Office applications and Microsoft Dynamics. The offerings in this first collection of Microsoft Snap programs are just a few of the many examples of that effort that include the recent Business Portal Lite for Microsoft Dynamics SL and CRM CodeGallery Sandbox launched late last year. This wave of applications that help enhance productivity by giving users access to Microsoft Dynamics information on demand, are definitely a part of our larger strategy of empowering information workers. We will continue to make strides in providing innovation in the realm of connected systems that bridge the unstructured world of human processes with the structured world of business applications.
PressPass: Are the programs you are announcing today similar to what Microsoft and SAP are doing with “Mendocino?” And how are they different?
Nadella: The functionality of this wave of Microsoft Dynamics Snap programs is similar to “Mendocino.” Both solutions have time and vacation management, but this set of solutions also provides in-context business data lookup in Microsoft Office programs. Another difference is that we made them a shared source initiative because we want to encourage our partners to build and customize these solutions for their customers. Going forward, we are looking at additional rich collaborative applications that we plan to ship with Microsoft Dynamics and 2007 Microsoft Office System.
PressPass: Will there be more Microsoft Dynamics Snap programs?
Nadella: Yes, we have a long list of creative ideas we are working against and plan to release more snap-ins through the rest of the year.
PressPass: How do you envision the role of Microsoft partners in the development of these Snap programs?
Nadella: These solutions are developed by Microsoft, but we are making them available under the Microsoft Permissive License so our partners can easily extend, customize or use parts of them. We want to inspire and encourage our partners to use these solutions as examples to build Microsoft Dynamics snap-ins relevant for specific roles and verticals as well as contribute back and to help us build more solutions that enhance productivity and empower information workers. We will also be discussing this in-depth with our partners at Convergence 2006, our customer and partner conference being held March 25-28 in Dallas.
PressPass: How hard was it for MBS to build these programs?
Nadella: It was a Snap!