Microsoft Dynamics exec says task-orientated mobile apps can get SMEs and start-ups racing

Microsoft Dynamics AX general manager Christian Pedersen says SMEs and start-ups can better serve customer needs by replacing legacy systems with task-orientated mobile apps built off a common development platform.

Pedersen was in Melbourne over the weekend with the Microsoft Dynamics sponsored Lotus Formula One racing team, which is in the process of migrating to the AX platform.

His visit follows the recent release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 earlier this month.

Pedersen told SmartCompany established small businesses can redefine themselves by migrating from legacy custom apps towards a common development platform.

“Right now we are working with a lot of companies that are redefining themselves. Some of the companies we’ve seen have had the consolidation of hundreds of custom systems onto Microsoft Dynamics.

“When you have a lot of custom systems, you tend to paralysed, because if you change something here, you don’t know what impact it will have over there. And what you get is that there’s all these systems that your developers can’t change.

“Dynamics is a development platform, so across the platform you get the same data model; you get the same security; you get the same user experience. All that stuff you get for free. You’re not building something that requires integration; you’re building on the same data model, and that eliminates a lot of that custom stuff. It’s still adapted to the business, but no [need for] integration; it’s all on the same data model.

Pedersen also says using an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform can have benefits for start-ups looking for agility.

“Especially with start-ups, you don’t expect to know how you’re going to work… You have to have a sense of agility, because what you end up doing might not be what you do today. That’s where Dynamics comes into play. Dynamics is incredibly agile, project to project.”

According to Pedersen, Microsoft Dynamics is built around powering task specific mobile apps, rather than a desktop-based ERP system.

“You’re not focused on using an ERP system, you’re focused on the task you need to do. So for example, there’s a lot of people who need to do approvals. But they’re not really ERP users, so we just have an app for approvals. So if anything needs their approval, it just shows up in their approval app where everything comes in – it can be an expense report, a timesheet, an order.

“So as a manager, you just say ‘okay, what approvals do I have to do today’ and there’s a list. It’s very task-orientated. So the traditional canonical system will be completely bifurcated with lots of different apps, and that’s how we’re seeing it. We have apps for your Windows Phone, or iOS.

According to Pedersen, using a development platform rather than a pre-configured suite allows businesses greater flexibility in custom-configuring apps.

“We supply a set of templates, so if you’re in an industry, there’s a set of templates to give you a reference app. But we know from a lot of our customers, they don’t necessarily just want the thinnest solution for their industry, because more and more, how companies differentiate themselves in the marketplace and the way they compete is by the way they operate.

“Think about a company like Dell when they first started, yeah they were selling computers, but what really set them apart was that you could custom-configure a computer and get it delivered within 24 hours, so it was the way they operated, not necessarily what they were doing, that set them apart.”

Pedersen explains using a common ERM and CRM platform across retail, operations and your warehouse is especially important in markets such as online retail.

“If you buy a gift for someone else, you want it shipped to their address. But say you also want to buy something for yourself, can you add that to the same order today? No, you’ve got to create another order. So you need to make sure that when you’ve got an order, every single item on that order should have different delivery options.

“Now that sounds easy to do from a sales perspective, to do that, but how do you now take that back into your warehouse and your operations? That’s a big, big challenge.

“So that’s another thing we do, we make sure all our industry solutions are one integrated package and focus on delivering a great customer experience, while some of our competitors have a different package for retail, another package for the warehouse, another for manufacturing and we think you miss out on a lot if you do that.”

The Microsoft Dynamics executive says he is also “very, very positive” about the direction incoming chief executive Satya Nadella will take the company.

“The background that Satya has is absolutely phenomenal. Especially coming from Dynamics, I’m very, very excited. When we started working on the next generation of ERP systems, that we have in the market now, one of the key players in building that strategy back in 2003 and 2004 was Satya.

“So we’ve had an opportunity to really work really closely with him and he knows what ERP is, we absolutely know he gets the space.”

Andrew Sadauskas interviewed Christian Pedersen as a guest of Microsoft at an Australian Grand Prix practice session late last week.

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