Great plans for Great Plains

Microsoft Great Plains, as it is now called, predicts it has a ‘huge market to gain’ and the next few months should provide signs of what is to come. However, despite having a grand sugar daddy, it appears that on a daily basis nothing has radically changed for the accountancy software vendor since the deal was completed.

Speaking to Accountancy Age at Softworld last week, Adrian Hobbs, UK managing director for Microsoft Great Plains, and former Great Plains manager, says the biggest difference he has noticed in recent times is the company now gets much more attention and has a much bigger financial resource to call on.

The company believes it now has a clear brand and is looking to develop that this year – and plans to use new offerings as a means of ‘opening new doors’.

‘There haven’t been many changes for us, but for our partners, they can rest assured knowing they can plan for the future with us, knowing we are here to stay.’ This confidence is aided by the fact the company is meeting analyst expectations, a performance set to be confirmed at the end of June, when it issues its first full year results.

Looking to the future, Microsoft Great Plains has confirmed it intends to ‘extend its reach’ into the SME market, a space dominated by the likes of Newcastle-based software giant Sage.

Hobbs says the company is currently focusing on the mid-market and the medium enterprise market, but does not rule out a move into the SME market at a later stage. ‘In the US we have been extremely successful in this (the SME) arena. We will see a similar move into this market, but not imminently, as we are focusing on driving our core business here,’ he comments.

‘However, we believe there is a huge market to gain in our core areas as the UK market is very fragmented with no one company emerging as the major player.’

Hobbs has also moved quickly to calm expectations over the launch of the company’s Small Business Manager accounts package as it announced it was going to launch a new, mid-market customer relationship management package. ‘Small Business Manager will not happen as quickly as anticipated,’ he says.

‘This year we are going to really consolidate the brand. Microsoft Great Plains is now much stronger than it was,’ adds Hobbs. ‘With the launch of Dynamics version 7 (later this year), the Business Desktop and Microsoft CRM this year, people will see the result of that effort.’

Uppermost in the mind of the company is helping its partners, including the likes of BDO Stoy Hayward and Tenon Technology, and embarking on a multi-million pound ‘great news and business’ advertising campaign. The emphasis is on quality not quantity, and the company can pick and choose who it gets into bed with.

Right now, the Microsoft business division, which includes Great Plains, is working to deliver the CRM system by the end of the year. This should be available in Europe within 90 days of the US launch, a change in attitude from the US facing company of old.

CRM is likely to be the first big.NET application to hit the market.

Dynamic version 7, which will precede it will not be based on the.NET development platform, but will include Office XP features such as Smart Tags. The staged releases were part of its strategy to ‘take customers with us’ as it migrated to.NET, says Hobbs.

Microsoft and Great Plains have traditionally seen the future of business applications for small and medium sized companies in the same way.

It appears the rest of us are about to find out exactly what that vision is.

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