Cloud-Bound: Advancing the Software Road Map for Dynamic Businesses
Oct. 14, 2010
Q&A: As Microsoft Convergence 2010 Europe kicks off in London, Mike Ehrenberg, Microsoft technical fellow and chief software architect for Microsoft Dynamics, shares his vision for the future of Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM solutions and the next generation of innovations driven by the cloud.

REDMOND, Wash. — Oct. 14, 2010 — Mike Ehrenberg and his team are driven by the fact that dynamics in the business world shift relentlessly. Microsoft Dynamics solutions are designed to enable businesses to thrive in this environment, turning change into opportunity. Since joining the Dynamics team in Microsoft’s business division in 2003, Ehrenberg’s role has focused on advancing this vision by simplifying systems, catalyzing innovations and delivering value through familiar business solutions.

Mike Ehrenberg, Microsoft technical fellow and chief software architect for Microsoft Dynamics.
Mike Ehrenberg, Microsoft technical fellow and chief software architect for Microsoft Dynamics.
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Today, on the opening day of Convergence 2010 Europe in London, thousands of customers and partners have gathered to hear Microsoft executives speak about how the company is delivering on its Dynamic Business vision. Microsoft News Center spoke with Ehrenberg to learn more about his role as chief software architect and thoughts on the future of the Microsoft Dynamics product line.

Microsoft News Center: Tell us a bit about your work on the Microsoft Dynamics team at Microsoft.

Ehrenberg: When I joined Microsoft, after 25 years in the business applications industry working almost exclusively on Microsoft platforms, it felt like I was coming home. Since then I have focused on Microsoft Dynamics for my entire time here. My first project at Microsoft centered on exploring the characteristics that would differentiate business applications designed for the future. I helped shape the model toward evolving our existing business application products rather than building something new from scratch. During that first crucial project, we came up with a number of core ideas for a new generation of business applications, many of which are realized in our products today and are delivering tremendous value to our customers. We are a long way from finished, and we’re very excited about our continued innovation going forward.

Since then, I’ve held several roles within the Microsoft Dynamics team, all focused on overseeing business application architecture, driving a long-term product road map, and energizing relationships between Microsoft Dynamics and the various system, platform and tools teams across Microsoft. Our vision for Dynamic Business is based on the premise that businesses that are able to perceive change faster than their competitors and transform processes in an agile manner to reflect the new world are the ones that can thrive. Core to that success is great software — and our mission for Microsoft Dynamics is to deliver software that provides that insight and enables that agility for our customers.

As we look forward, a key focus for us is on the cloud and its vast potential to transform business applications for the future. We’ve already delivered a successful Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online offering. Next, we’re drilling down on how we can bring the benefits of the cloud to the rest of our products and customers.

Microsoft News Center: What areas do you anticipate major evolution of Microsoft Dynamics to support dynamic businesses?

Ehrenberg: Whenever we think about Dynamic Business, we look at three tiers — people, process and ecosystem — and envision the ways we expect to differentiate Microsoft’s offerings across those pillars through simplicity, value and innovation.

The core purpose of our software is to make people more productive. In recent product releases, we delivered what we call “RoleTailored user experience,” focused on bringing users an experience centered on their responsibilities and informing them with business intelligence completely embedded in the application and highly specific to their role to make smarter decisions. Going forward, we intend to propel the basic premise of RoleTailored experience to a fully context-aware experience, harnessing dimensions beyond someone’s role so that the system can make them even more effective. We are looking to raise the bar with innovations in natural user experience and machine learning as well as affect the way our business applications interact with people.

The cloud holds enormous possibilities for business applications. Within the Microsoft Dynamics world, we see a range of ways to tap into the cloud and drive new capabilities.
- Mike Ehrenberg, chief software architect for Microsoft Dynamics,

The heart of any business lies in its processes. By actively modeling those processes in software, we can fundamentally transform the role of software in dynamic businesses. When many businesses today consider changing a process, they need to first capture the actual current process definition from interviews or static paper diagrams that are often out of date. Changing the software to match the new process often becomes the gating factor in rolling out the process change to reflect the new world.

We want to completely turn that around at the software level by incorporating the metrics and measurements to tip people off when it’s time to make a process change, and then by enabling the right person to change the process modeled in the software, have the software in fact facilitate driving that change throughout the business. Business success today is defined by who can be fastest at adapting to new requirements. We’ve already worked with Windows workflow technology across our products and have taken huge strides to make software both the driver and the enabler of these changes.

The final dimension, ecosystem, is about connecting a business with its network of customers, partners and suppliers. Our Microsoft Dynamics CRM application successfully links businesses with customers. Our ERP products extend this by enabling the connections to suppliers. Going forward, the idea of business intelligence and analytics will lie at the core of this ecosystem, shifting the focus from the transactions being entered to the information and insight being generated. We’ve made a great start with SQL analytics and reporting products embedded in Microsoft Dynamics applications.

Microsoft News Center: Can we expect further innovations in Dynamics business applications driven specifically by the cloud?

Ehrenberg: The cloud holds enormous possibilities for business applications. Within the Microsoft Dynamics world, we see a range of ways to tap into the cloud and drive new capabilities. The first area with great potential is “time to value.” For instance, as soon as customers decide they want a CRM solution, it only takes a few minutes for their system to be fully operational, with integrated tutorials and sample data that help users move smoothly into implementation. We realize that people want to see benefits as soon as they spend time and resources on anything. The ability to get deployed quickly — enabled by the cloud — is crucial to customer satisfaction.

Other core value premises of the cloud — such as being able to pay as you go and also pay as you grow — offer great value to customers. One of the most daunting propositions for business owners or IT managers involves determining the optimal size and capacity of their system. Do they need to invest in additional capacity right away even if they don’t need it till much later? What if they own a seasonal business with fluctuating staffing needs? With the elastic capacity offered by the Microsoft Cloud, we have the opportunity to deliver solutions that eliminate the need to predict required capacity and allow customers to pay based on what they use.

Going forward, we expect to significantly leverage the cloud to raise the level of service and reliability for our customers. With every major technology shift in business applications, it takes innovation at all levels — platform, tools and the applications — to really deliver the value of the new generation. Innovation in Microsoft Dynamics, coupled with the investments that Microsoft is making in enhancing the Windows Azure platform and datacenter technology, adds up to tremendous collective potential. With Microsoft Dynamics, we look beyond bringing our own innovation to business customers and focus on making Microsoft Dynamics a vehicle to deliver the power of all Microsoft’s R&D innovation to business customers. The cloud is the next chapter in that exciting story.

Microsoft News Center: What can people expect from Convergence Europe?

Ehrenberg: Convergence is an opportunity for our customers to experience firsthand the innovations that are being delivered by the Microsoft Dynamics team across our products. They will hear about product road maps, see new features and functionality lined up for future products, and be the first to learn about some exciting CRM and ERP announcements, such as new promotional pricing for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and the availability of Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail in new markets. Above all, the prospect of engaging directly with our customers and partners and getting their feedback on our products is tremendously valuable and certainly makes this event something I look forward to every year.

Note: More details on Convergence 2010 Europe news can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/dynamics.

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