Stampede Toward the SMB

At its global partner event, Stampede, in Minneapolis this week, Microsoft showcased development efforts across new and existing business applications for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Taking aim at this high-growth market, the software giant created Microsoft Business Solutions unit, which includes Great Plains, Microsoft bCentral and this summer's acquisition Navision. "Small and mid-market businesses are in a challenging position when it comes to IT investments," said Jodi Uecker-Rust, vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, in a statement. "They understand that technology can help them transform their operations to gain greater efficiencies and streamline processes, but they have a need to approach their IT investments in a conservative manner." Specifically, Microsoft Business Solutions will offer a financing program, called Microsoft Capital, to help SMBs purchase e-business products. Microsoft Business Solutions' products are also being re-packaged in a 'needs-based' model that's more appealing to SMBs tight IT budgets. Lastly, Microsoft Business Solutions will begin publishing prices and simplifying purchasing processes, eliminating the time and cost of more complex pricing models, Microsoft claims. Like many enterprise software vendors, Microsoft believes SMB resellers and integrators hold the keys to unlocking sales. After all, they know all about the special needs of this fickle market. Microsoft Business Solutions unveiled a product roadmap for channel partners, enabling them to plan their selling strategies. Initially, the roadmap calls for deepening integration of e-business products with the Microsoft Office desktop applications suite. For instance, Microsoft Business Solutions demonstrated Small Business Manager 7.0 for effective inventory control and streamlined sales and purchasing processes; SBM Commission Wizard in Exel; a built-in cash flow calendar; and integration with Microsoft bCentral. Also on the fore, Microsoft Business Solutions will deliver workflow enhancements to Solutions Inventory and Order Processing, which are Great Plains solutions, as well as Microsoft Business Network, an online trading service. A trend among SMBs is their penchant for vertical solutions, since many SMBs lack the resources for in-depth customization efforts. To this end, Microsoft Business Solutions announced Microsoft Retail Management System, a retail point-of-sale application, and Microsoft Business Solutions Professional Services Automation. The latter combines resource management, project management, knowledge management, time and expense, project accounting, financials, and reporting and analytics into one integrated solution, Microsoft claims.
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