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Sunday, April 22, 2007

ERP Live? "Software plus Services"?

As most everyone should have seen at Convergence this year, a big part of Microsoft's furutre plan is CRM and ERP Live. What this translate into is the Software plus Software, or S+S. This is the "named" version of SaaS or Software as a Service, in the Microsoft world. So the name is different, and what does this mean?

Well if we look at the future, as laid out by the Microsoft Crystal Ball [aka: Road Maps] we will see how all of these convergence of technologies, etc. are being shaped towards the future of the information worker. Let's start with the future front end, for a given information worker. In the not to distant future, most information workers will complete their job on a SharePoint Portal Mashup page, made up of web parts and weblets. These web parts will draw from Dynamics AX, CRM, and other places, and make use of Word Documents, an Excel spreadsheets as web parts.
The Underlying technologies that will enable this can be seen in the newest release of Office 2007 with Form Services, SharePoint 3.0, DotNet [WinFX] 3.0, and so forth. This means that the "FAT" regular windows client will start to slowly enter into it's twilight years as the RIA, or Rich Interactive Application approach [Part of the Web / Enterprise 2.0 jargon] will allow Window application 'Like' interactions over a web front end delivery system. Some of the technologies for this include AJAX, Flash, and the Flash counter part SilverLight [formely WPF/e].

Now We have an understanding of what the front end will be like, SharePoint and Office. What does this means for the business Layer of our ERP / CRM Live? This means the same underlying technologies, that will provide role based user interfaces, will exists for role based, or better process based work flows of data and executed business logic. See with the S+S mashup, the entire cloud is not one single giant service, but rather services interconnecting multiple softwares, to offer up a single sign on, and single user interface, even though the parts of a given workflow could hit:
1.) ERP Live
2.) CRM Live
3.) A legacy system
etc. and so on.

So this means that the ERP Live Cloud [Which from this point forward also could containt CRM Live] is an organism of such, breathing and living in it own process domains, calling out and in from any different amount of integration points, and custom business logic, that flow that water to the end user, even though there could be many levy's, breaks, raise's, lower's,... still the in is one, and the out is one.

Ok let me step back away from the analogies, and talk real world. We live in Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM. There will be for some time, and even after the Live versions, customers / companies that host their own clouds that make up their solution, and that they control. Adoption of the cloud based system of S+S will take a long time, because it such a different way of thinking, and the ROI is not lowered cost of operation in the short term but gain flexibility in the long term which equates to a companies system adjustablility to it's marketplace and grow as the business grows. This in turn does means a greater ROI in the long term, but a higher investment to reach this critical mass point in the short term. [Long term = 8-12 years, short term = 2-3 years].

In our real world we have Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM, these are parts [major parts] or the Dynamics brand that are all coming together to eventually make ERP Live and CRM Live products. The flavors of the Live depend on if a companies cloud will be entirly hosted, partially hosted, and not hosted at all. [Most I see will be a hybrid of half / half.] That means that after Dynamics AX 6.0 or 7.0 [Same version for CRM] that will we start to really see the different flavors of Dynamics, ie: AX, GP, SL, etc., come together in this ERP / CRM Live vision and become one product, with different levels of implementation for operation, functionality, and size.

To Not go on to much about this, what I would like to wrap up here with is that ERP and CRM Live are the future of the products we Dynamics AX and CRM professionals support and focus on. This means that we must start to shape our current skill sets to the following:

- SharePoint
- AJAX, RIA, SiverLight [And still Flash]
- Office and it's full compliment of products
- Web services
- .Net 3.0, 4.0 and beyond

For most of us this will be just a continued path of something we are already doing. Like SharePoint, office, Web Serices and .Net 2.0 rigth now, that is needed for the current versions of Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM. We must start to think about how we will take advantage of these technologies for our current and future client base. ERP Live and CRM Live are coming, S+S will be the prefered implementation method and eventually the only way. Hosted or not, the ERP and CRM marketplace is changing with the changing world around us. We must understand that Software and Services are coming together, to changes Software and products from very much domain based, living indepedant of itself and others, to becoming a living and breathing suite of services and business logic that can adapt and grow as the customers that use it do.

To clost fully, I welcome all comments about this. I realize that this is the future, and sometime off, but if we align ourselves for change then we embrace the change. Check back soon as I dive deeper into the current version of Dynamics CRM and integrating it into Dynmaics AX, as well as all the new integration points that I have been working on, as well as much much more! Check back soon!

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