Q&A: New Vertical Offerings Aim to Bolster Growth Opportunities for Microsoft Dynamics AX and Its Partners

BOSTON, July 10, 2006 – Building upon the launch of Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 at the Tech•Ed 2006 conference in June, Microsoft today announced a number of new vertical initiatives for Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0, an adaptable, global business-management solution. Today’s announcement will be outlined in an event at the 2006 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston featuring Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; Satya Nadella, corporate vice president, Microsoft Business Solutions; Tami Reller, corporate vice president, Microsoft Business Solutions, and Mark A. Jensen, general manager for Microsoft Dynamics AX. PressPass spoke with Jensen for more details on the news, the momentum for Microsoft Dynamics AX in the marketplace and how the new initiatives are designed to open new opportunities for Microsoft industry partners.

PressPass: How has the reception been to Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 since its launch in June?

Mark Jensen: The reception from customers, partners and industry analysts has been phenomenally positive. We had a very comprehensive Technical Adoption Program (TAP) for a number of our customers and partners over the past year, and their feedback and key learnings have allowed us to offer a solution that is high-performing right out of the gate. So far, customers such as Oldcastle Precast tell us they realized greater operational efficiencies and integration on the Microsoft Dynamics AX. An additional benefit of the TAP program is that it’s given us a head start on partner readiness efforts, so partners can ramp up with the solution faster. We’ll be highlighting some of the TAP program successes at our event this evening in Boston. For those that can’t join us, listen to what one TAP customer and partner have said about their experience in the program at http://blogs.msdn.com/satyanadella/. We know Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 is a quality product and we believe it will have a big impact on the ERP market.

PressPass: What are you announcing today at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference?

Jensen: We’re continuing the momentum that Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 has already achieved with several announcements. First, four new ISV partners have been added to the Industry Builder program – Atos Origin, Infonizer, TXT e-Solutions and WellPoint Systems – to provide sophisticated vertical modules within their respective industries – automotive suppliers, dealer-management systems, demand-driven planning and financial services for the energy industry. Industry Builder is an initiative that allows us to offer Microsoft Dynamics AX and industry-leading vertical modules from our ISVs in one solution and with one support plan, and provides the assurance of a Microsoft supported solution to the end customer. Since it was launched last year, customers and partners have enthusiastically embraced Industry Builder – it has simplified the purchasing and deployment processes for customers and helped partners compete more effectively in certain vertical industries.

Lastly, for those that are interested in watching the progress of Microsoft Dynamics AX within a hub-and-spoke scenario, we’re announcing that Microsoft Operations Puerto Rico has implemented Microsoft Dynamics AX. This is the manufacturing operation that will produce all the CDs and DVDs for the coming Microsoft 2007 Office System and Microsoft Windows Vista launches, and is a great indication of our solution’s manufacturing capabilities and strength in integrating with other ERP solutions at the headquarters level.

We’ll be highlighting both of these news items tonight at a Microsoft Dynamics AX partner event with Steve Ballmer.

PressPass: Could you tell us more about these new partners participating in the Industry Builder initiative and what they are offering?

Jensen: Atos Origin is a leading IT services company with over 47,000 employees in 40 countries, offering a Microsoft Dynamics AX module for automotive suppliers and for the 3PL industry. This module is designed to fulfill both standard automotive industry requirements and OEM specifics such as release accounting, OEM compliance, B2B integration, sub-contracting, automotive shipments and integration of suppliers into the automotive supply chain.

Infonizer, headquartered in Denmark, has developed the INFONIZER Dealer Management System for Microsoft Dynamics AX, providing automotive dealers with a comprehensive system for managing the common business processes across the main areas of an automotive dealership – vehicles, parts and workshop. The solution will be available globally and can be localized to fit specific requirements of regional markets.

TXT e-Solutions, which is based in Italy with over 500 professionals around the globe, has long been recognized as a leader in supply-chain planning (SCM) by analyst firms. They’ve developed a demand-driven planning module to benefit those companies in consumer packaged goods manufacturing, fashion/textile and apparel manufacturing, retail and other verticals that sell through channels to end customers.

WellPoint Systems, a Canadian company that has previously won the Microsoft ISV Solution of the Year Award in Canada, has developed a financial management module that is customized for both the oil and gas and mining industries. As a supplier of upstream and midstream software solutions, WellPoint currently has more than 200 customers in over 50 countries around the world.

PressPass: What kind of opportunities do these announcements open for partners?

Jensen: Business applications is a US$62 billion market, and we’re focused on providing the most complete and scalable solution so our partners can capture a big portion of this market. Basically, this news allows partners to scale higher and go deeper in verticals than they have been able to go before, and we think this opens new worlds of opportunity for them. We have the best partners in the world – they know their industry, their region, and what their customers want. The key for us is providing them with the best platform on which they can build their expertise, and we think we’re doing this with Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0.

PressPass: You say this is the most global solution Microsoft Dynamics AX has ever delivered. What does that mean?

Jensen: When you add up all of the new features within the 4.0 solution and the exceptional depth of our partners, Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 is designed to support businesses no matter how fast they grow or into which markets they expand. The solution supports 40 languages in 36 countries, including Unicode for companies interested in expanding into or sourcing from China. The adaptable architecture and Web services allow for easy integration among various applications, no matter the location. We are seeing a huge amount of interest among companies that are growing – they know they’ll soon open that plant in China or the office in Brazil, and they need an affordable and adaptable solution that will be able to grow and support them. This is a very exciting time within the business applications marketplace and we think we’re delivering the right platform at the right time.

PressPass: We keep hearing about Web services in Microsoft Dynamics AX, especially in the context of collaboration. What are you delivering?

Jensen: Some of the deepest investments in this release have been on the platform, designed to provide greater integration, adaptability and extensibility- primarily through Web services. Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 is a composite application, using Web services to span the boundaries between structured and unstructured data from different sources and tying together formal processes with ad-hoc workflows.

We think customers want a complete view of their business. Via Web services and our services-oriented architecture, we can offer customers the ability to bridge processes across information silos and work across multiple systems. Let me give you an example: a Web-services interface provides the ability to create RSS feeds that push time-sensitive information to decision-makers. In addition, developers can easily create their own Web services and ISVs can use .NET to write new applications and to expose existing applications.

One of my favorite examples involves the way we integrate with SharePoint using Web parts, pluggable and reusable Windows SharePoint Services components. Standard Web parts come with the Enterprise Portal to expose the business data from Dynamics AX. This enables a number of collaboration scenarios where employees can view critical sales, supply chain and other business data directly in their web browser, and act on that to make better decisions.

PressPass: Why did Microsoft Operations Puerto Rico (MOPR) decide to implement Microsoft Dynamics AX?

Jensen: In the case of Microsoft Operations Puerto Rico, Microsoft Dynamics AX was a great fit for their manufacturing operations.  MOPR manufactures all the CDs and DVDs for the launches of 2007 Office System and Windows Vista in the Americas region.  These launches are big bets for Microsoft as a company, and we’re counting on them to take us to the next level – so getting the media manufactured and shipped is critical.

MOPR needed to support its mission-critical, 7/24 manufacturing operations as well as dramatically increased transaction volumes due to the launches.  They also wanted a better enterprise view to data to reduce their use of manual processes.   They chose Microsoft Dynamics AX because it works with all of MOPR’s existing Microsoft technology, includes the necessary functionality, and lets the plant adapt quickly to changes. They worked with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Avanade to implement the solution, and now with Microsoft Dynamics AX, MOPR has a complete, end-to-end business management solution.  Their planning and forecasting has improved, and they are working to gain even more efficiencies as well as support our transaction volume.  It solves the problems that MOPR had struggled with using its legacy systems, and positions the plant to be operating at full speed going into two of the biggest launches in Microsoft’s history.

PressPass: What are the next steps for Microsoft Dynamics AX?

Jensen: Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 is available in the U.S. and Canada today and will roll out in most other localized versions by the end of the calendar year. Each of the countries that we sell into will have its own set of launch activities to ramp up its local partner community and introduce Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 to customers.

Going forward, we’ll build on the technology in our platform today to deliver on our Wave 2 promises of an enhanced user experience, delivering process-centric design, and providing simple, model-driven development and customization. In addition, we’ll continue working with Microsoft Dynamics’ centers of R&D excellence around the world to deliver additional application functionality in the core product and in strategic vertical areas.

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