Microsoft spooked business applications customers two years ago with talk of an ambitious strategy to roll together its disparate Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) software lines into one converged code base, an initiative called "Project Green." At its Convergence business applications conference this week, MBS head Doug Burgum assured attendees that MBS' five main product lines have years of life remaining.
He mapped MBS strategy in a keynote speech delivered 22 years to the day after he started working at Great Plains. MBS was created several years ago when Microsoft combined business applications development with acquisitions of midmarket ERP (enterprise resource planning) software makers Great Plains and Navision. Although Microsoft owns the desktop, it's among thousands of vendors vying for market share in applications to manage corporate operations such as sales, human resources, customer service and accounting. Burgum's task is to raise Microsoft's profile.
After his keynote Monday, Burgum met with IDG News Service to discuss the fading of Green and MBS' strategy to increase its market heft. Following is an edited transcript of the interview.
IDGNS: Microsoft is talking about Project Green in a different way from two years ago, with it being less of a new code base and more of a gradual, incremental process. What prompted that change?
Burgum: We haven't changed the endpoint. The vision remains the same. It's a little more crisp because we've had two more years of learning, and because of the deep customer research that we did.
There are two elements that led to a different strategy on how we'd like to get there. One is related to learning, both from our customer base and our partner base, that if the innovation could be delivered in ways that are more digestible and more evolutionary, that that would be preferable to dramatic, revolutionary change. So, some of it was to make sure we were pacing it right. The other piece was synching up with the refined Longhorn schedule.
IDGNS: Are there specific elements of the Longhorn architecture that will enable "wave two," planned for 2008 and beyond, with the business applications?
Burgum: Yes. An example there would be WinFS, which is the new file system. (Microsoft removed WinFS from Longhorn last year and said it will be released later.) ERP systems have been more around structured data, and the way people work is around structured and unstructured. With WinFS, it will be easier for us to light up that capability.
If a person is doing order entry work, and there's a dispute with a customer over an invoice, what happens today is lots of e-mails go back and forth with the customer. It's rough to be able to easily link those, do a search on them, all those things. But if you could put the unstructured data, the e-mail communication, with the structured data -- here's the invoice, here's the accounting entry that led to that invoice -- having the structured and the unstructured together, we think, would have a lot of value to customers. That's the kind of thing that you'll see more in wave two.
IDGNS: The word that's been used a lot today is migration. The idea now is that customers will be able to get to the eventual converged code base, to Project Green, with upgrades on their individual product lines. There will never be a rip-and-replace?