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Microsoft unveils next-generation business software

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Microsoft has launched the newest generation of its business software in
South Africa, saying it signals a new chapter in enterprise resource
planning (ERP) user productivity by providing an easy-to-use interface and
information tailored to specific roles within a company.

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009, which was released locally this week, has
already won plaudits from analysts and early adopters, including local IT
solutions provider XON and JSE-listed staffing provider Adcorp.
Jumana Helal, who heads up the Dynamics business at Microsoft SA, says AX
2009 aims to help businesses thrive in a competitive global marketplace by
controlling costs, managing risk and increasing employee productivity.
"Our vision of ERP is that it will actually start to prompt its users to
take certain actions, instead of merely being a reactive tool that people
use to pull weekly reports from," says Helal. "Employees using traditional
ERP systems have had to wade through inefficient, time-intensive steps –
enter transactional data, run reports, analyse reports – before they can do
their jobs effectively. Through Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009's Role Center,
employees from the executive suite to the warehouse have access to
role-relevant business intelligence to help them make decisions more
efficiently."
Adcorp CIO Kobus Pienaar says the group has a clear roadmap for rolling out
AX technology to all 15 of its subsidiaries. Adcorp has 1 700 full-time
employees, and administers 70 000 full and part-time staff for its clients
at any given time, paying R2.2 billion a year in salaries and processing 70
000 timesheets and 60 000 payslips per week.
"The complexities of managing accurate business insights and standardising
operations across multiple locations are immense," says Pienaar. "Microsoft
Dynamics AX helps us to manage complex financial and supply chain processes
more easily.
"For example, the new software can run multiple legal entities on a central
installation and provide a single, integrated view of financial and supply
chain information from facilities around the country, helping us simplify
our planning. Advanced planning and reporting scenarios, such as
consolidation or budgeting, are offered through integration with Microsoft
Office Performance Point Server."
Systems integrators like XON Group say the new AX 2009 will offer powerful
new capabilities to help growing multisite organizations streamline
processes, reduce operational costs, manage compliance and drive informed
decision-making. XON Group, which has operations in 16 cities across South
Africa, was the first South African user of AX 2009.
"We have 40 people across eight companies and three national offices using
Microsoft's ERP system," said Bart van Buynder, CFO of the XON Group of
companies. "We are using a total of six modules that our business partner –
XON Business Solutions, deployed first in a test environment before going
live and we encountered no issues during the rapid deployment."
Another business challenge that growing companies face is the increasing
pressure to meet global and local regulatory compliance, a complex and
costly problem that has been a top priority for chief executive officers and
chief financial officers. Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 delivers core features
to help companies limit these risks and lower total cost of compliance,
including country-specific functionality to help local customers more easily
comply with local regulations.
Helal says people need software that helps them do their jobs more
effectively and with minimal training. To increase productivity and foster
more confident decision-making, the role-tailored design of Microsoft
Dynamics AX 2009 gives employees access to critical business data through
the following new features:
* A Role Center that prioritizes tasks and real-time information for a
majority of business functions
* A user interface that looks and feels like familiar Microsoft Office
software to help employees ramp up quickly, resulting in higher user
productivity and more consistent adherence to business processes
* Self-service business intelligence tools using Microsoft Business
Intelligence technologies to deliver standard KPIs by role and simplify
end-user reporting, which results in more informed decision-making and
integrity of information across the organization. Preconfigured KPIs and
reports enable customers to start immediately.
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 integrates with other Microsoft technologies,
maximizing the benefits of any company's overall IT investment. Benefits
include:
* Enhanced security, reliability and scalability though integration with
Microsoft SQL Server 2008.    For example, Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 can
compress the database size by 60 to 80 percent, which can lead to lower
hardware and data maintenance costs;
* Reduced operational complexity and IT management overheads with improved
control through interoperability with Windows Essential Business Server
2008;
* Improved ability to manage and administer projects through integration
with Microsoft Office Project Server;
* Easy communication with remote employees, customers, and trading partners
through integration with Microsoft Unified Communication.