Profile: Doug Burgum, president, MS Business Solutions

Burgum has been at the forefront of software giant Microsoft’s drive away from its dependence on Windows and Office into the competitive world of accountancy software.

Indeed, on the eve of the Navision takeover, Microsoft unveiled a ‘ten-year plan’ aimed at making it the largest player in the accountancy software market.Microsoft Business Solutions division was created through the company’s acquisition of Great Plains in April 2001 and the July 2002 acquisition of Navision.

Burgum joined Great Plains in March 1983 as its first outside investor. He was named president in 1984 and subsequently became chairman and chief executive officer.

Following this year’s acquisition of Navision, Burgum said the company will be looking to build on Navision’s enterprise wide mid-range product – Axapta – combining it with its own .NET strategy for the small to mid-tier market.

‘Many business processes in these companies are not yet benefiting from the efficiencies that technology offers. Microsoft and the Navision team together are committed to delivering solutions and products to this large market segment,’ said Burgum, also president of Microsoft Corporation.

Part of the 10-year plan, according to Burgum is to lower the costs of SMEs wishing to switch vendors. He said: ‘Our competitors tend to be able to hold onto customers because of high switching costs, [but] that is something we will have to overcome.’

But the move has aroused strong feelings among rival vendors in an already crowded market.

Hansa UK managing director, Stephen Jay, said: ‘On a product level this makes no sense. There is already confusion among dealers over [Navision] direction and future product development – it already has the Damgaard products in its portfolio. Add in Great Plains products and you have a dog’s breakfast of overlapping products.’

But Burgum is no fool in this game. At an annual meeting as CEO of Great Plains, Burgum smashed three eggs on his head in front of employees and industry partners after releasing a product with performance problems. Burgum made it very clear that he took a large part of the responsibility for the egg on the company’s face.

He is also known to be a bit of a philosopher: ‘I’ve read a lot about explorers and great adventurers because I’ve been on a journey theme for quite a few years. Life’s a journey and business is a journey and we need to think about the journey.

‘We need to have a purpose far beyond making money. There’s intrinsic value in building great products. In software itås a combination of art and engineering.’

Among many honours, Burgum has been named in ‘The Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting’ list for the past six years at US magazine Accounting Today.

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