Business Solutions Solomon, formerly Solomon IV and
Microsoft Great Plains Solomon IV, a prominent business management
and e-business suite of applications for small and mid-market companies, and
the product that some had prematurely written off after being acquired first
by one of its erstwhile greatest nemeses, former Great Plains Software
in 2000 (see Will
Solomon Finally Satisfy Great Plains' Insatiable Appetite?), and particularly
after its new owner subsequently ended up under Microsoft's
roof in 2001 (see Microsoft
And Great Plains —
A Friendship That Turned Into A Marriage),
only soon after to share the fraternity home with yet another former nemesis,
Navision in 2002 (see Microsoft
'The Great' Poised To Conquer Mid-Market, Once and Again), seems to be doing
just fine, if not even much better than that. It appears that the product has
several truly differentiating traits, which cannot be easily or quickly replicated
by its seemingly more robust brethren products within Microsoft Business
Solutions (MBS) division. Thus, Microsoft has reason to continue to
bolster the product for Solomon's loyal customer base and resellers instead
of promoting less popular options (e.g., stabilization and replacement).
recently, in summer 2003, Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) announced the availability
of Microsoft Business Solutions Solomon 5.5, which includes
several new features and enhancements in the product's Foundation Series, Financial
Series, Project Series, and Service Series of modules. Owing to the product's
renowned sweet spot of project accounting, MBS has further developed Solomon
5.5 to meet the needs of small to midsize project-driven organizations, specifically
in the industries of business services, management and engineering services,
social services, special trades contracting, general contractors, and wholesale
trade (durable goods). To that end, Solomon 5.5 includes Microsoft Business
Solutions Professional Services Automation (MBS PSA) product features
that combine the power of MBS Project Accounting Solomon and
the new enterprise version of Microsoft Project 2002 to provide
externally focused, project-driven organizations with an integrated financial,
project and resource management, knowledge management, time and expense, project
accounting, financials, and reporting and analytics solution, based on the Microsoft
.NET platform. Additional enhancements to the project accounting capabilities
include new indirect rate calculation and new audit trail tracking abilities
for contractors of the US federal government, particularly those subject to
Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) audits.
MBS PSA vertical solution became generally available in North America at the
end of 2002, following its quite vocal announcement during the Stampede
2002 partner conference (see Microsoft
Lays Enforced-Concrete Foundation For Its Business Solutions).
is Part One of a four-part note on the MBS Solomon product.
Two will discuss the market impact. Part Three will cover product differentiators.
Four will present the vendor challenges and make user recommendations.
5.5 is now also integrated with Microsoft Business Solutions Retail
Management System (MBS RMS), a retail management and point-of-sale
(POS) solution designed specifically for the independent merchant. The integration
allows for the easy sharing of information between Microsoft RMS and the proven
financial capabilities of Solomon. Built on the award-winning QuickSell
line of products, it offers a solution that automates a retailer's operations
from the cash register right through to the company headquarters. Also announced
during Stampede 2002, the solution already featured integration with MBS
Great Plains and MBS Small Business Manager financial
applications, bringing a sophisticated (POS, inventory management, pricing and
promotions, reports, and analysis) yet easy-to-use and cost-effective offering
to small and medium-sized retail businesses.
with Solomon 5.5, users of Microsoft Office XP will find the
capabilities of Outlook, Word, and Excel
expanded through .NET Smart Tag capabilities, which should
allow users to easily incorporate structured and unstructured information, or
information from multiple systems, into a single document. To that end, the
Smart Tag Manager lets Office users drill down on customer,
vendor, inventory, account, salesperson or employee detail information stored
in the Solomon 5.5 database.
Last but not least, Solomon 5.5 includes several new features within the following series of modules:
Financial Series — The suite exhibits enhanced time entry screens and
the tools needed to print multiple checks per employee per pay period or payroll
run, which should be particularly useful for construction companies.
Project Series — New features include additional modules in the Solomon
Standard edition, revenue allocation rules based on a maximum, Solomon
Desktop Web time entry modifications, the ability to enter and adjust labor
costs over the Web, automatic synchronization of new project IDs by using
Solomon's next available project ID, and ease-of-use enhancements for data
Service Series — Additional modules are now available, including equipment
maintenance and Service Contracts.
Foundation Series — Features enhanced report management capabilities
within the Solomon desktop, as well as online user manuals.
MBS Solomon 5.5 shows continued MBS investment in the advanced distribution,
professional services automation (PSA) projects, service, and e-business capabilities
of the product and its continued focus on vertically-oriented functionality
while balancing strategic investments in broadening the functional footprint.
The future should bring the delivery of Microsoft Business Portal
(formerly shortly referred to as Microsoft Business Desk) as
a replacement for the Solomon Desktop portal application, as
well as the delivery of Microsoft Customer Relationship Management (MS
CRM) integrated with Solomon, increased integration between Solomon
and other Microsoft products, and accelerated development of business applications
and the independent software vendors (ISV) platform using the Microsoft .NET
MBS Solomon 5.5 represents a natural progression from Microsoft Great
Plains Solomon IV Release 5.0, which was delivered in summer 2002,
and featured significant new capabilities and enhancements across its advanced
distribution, financial, project, e-business, and service series. The release
particularly built on the strengths of its advanced distribution capabilities
with the addition of the following three new modules:
The Inventory Replenishment module is used to track inventory
usage data and vendor performance, as well to plan future requirements in
order to optimally set inventory stocking levels and automate generation of
purchase orders. By replenishing inventory more accurately through historical
use, vendor performance, and planned future demand, organizations should be
able to deliver better customer service while improving cash flow and balance
The Order to Purchase module should benefit customer service
and sales representatives through a one-step process of taking a customer
order and then placing a purchase order with a vendor to fulfill stock needs
when the company does not have inventory on hand to fill the order. A streamlined
fulfillment process should provides salespeople with the tools they need to
satisfy customer demand and deliver higher levels of customer service.
The Landed Cost module enables distributors and manufacturers
to account for additional costs beyond the merchandise cost incurred in purchasing
inventory items. This should allow these organizations to effectively manage
profitability by rolling the shipping, handling and import fees into the total
cost of goods.
IV 5.0 also delivered on continued investments in its Finance Series
with payroll capabilities for construction and other businesses. These include
union reciprocity (portability), service dispatch integration to advanced payroll,
project time and expense integration to advanced payroll, and web-based advanced
payroll time entry. In union reciprocity, a new screen has been added to automate
the calculation of fringe benefit amounts based on a reciprocal agreement between
an employee's home local union and work local union. Unlimited reciprocals can
be set up and maintained, and are automatically calculated, saving time for
payroll managers who previously had to manually calculate complex union reciprocal
agreements each week.
the Project Series, organizations performing projects or services
for customers in other countries can use the new multicurrency project invoice
enhancement to have customers' invoices presented in a foreign currency. Amounts
from the foreign currency invoice are automatically translated into the system's
base currency for postings.
the e-Business Series, Solomon Desktop now has multi-company
capabilities, enabling Web self-service applications and reports to interact
with data in all established companies, either in a single database or in multiple
application databases. Each Solomon Desktop user will have the opportunity to
sign in to any company for which rights have been given, providing remote managers
and salespeople with quick and easy access to the full multi-company capabilities
of Solomon IV while simplifying administration for the information technology
the Service Series, dispatch integration with Microsoft
MapPoint has been added, allowing dispatchers to quickly and accurately
locate the address of service calls, plan technicians' routes, and determine
alternate routes if needed. The enhancement enables general and specialty trade
contractors to better dispatch technicians for higher utilization and profits.
However, to use this feature, customers must purchase a license for Microsoft
MapPoint separately, and the product must be installed on the dispatcher's computer.
As a recap, MBS claimed at the time of the Solomon IV 5.0 release that the following parties would benefit from the new product's capabilities:
Distributors or manufacturers who
enhanced inventory replenishment capability
to improve fulfillment by efficiently creating purchase orders from
landed cost inventory valuation
production plans with material tracking and cost accounting
Finance officers and controllers who want improved financial reporting, such
as improved actual versus budget reports, and improved budgeting tools
Construction companies who need a better payroll solution
Customers who require advanced payroll processing such as union reciprocity
Specialty contractors with mobile field service technicians who want an easy
and effective means for directing their technicians to the correct location
Organizations that require the ability to represent customers' project-driven
invoices in foreign currencies
Customers with large off-site work forces that need to report chargeable labor
and expense activity.
Organizations with multiple accounting companies that want to affordably provide
remote managers and employees easy access to reports and applications via
the Solomon IV 5.0 release was a progression from Microsoft Great Plains
Solomon IV Release 4.50, which was launched in summer 2001 and which
featured more tightly integrated financials, supply chain management (SCM),
project management, and field service management applications. In addition,
Solomon IV 4.50 introduced to customers the more powerful tools to customize
the solution to meet their unique business needs.
Management Enhancements —
Solomon IV Release 4.50 provided project managers in the construction, engineering
and other service-related fields with the ability to more closely track project
details for improved profitability, due to the available views into project
profitability, analysis capabilities, and project workflow tracking and management.
Several new project management modules were also made available, enhancing review
and approval of time sheets and expenses as well as detailed analyses of employee
utilization, which offers customers an enhanced interface between projects and
chargeable-time employees, all via the Internet. With the addition of the Solomon
IV advanced payroll module, general and specialty contractors with union payroll
needs also will be able to utilize Solomon IV for project management.
Chain Management —
The Solomon IV Release 4.50 SCM Series added two new modules, bill of materials
(BOM) and work order, which, combined with the enhancements to Solomon IV's
order management, inventory and purchasing modules, further eased use and configuration
flexibility. The work order module was also tightly integrated with the project
Service Management —
Enhancements to the Solomon IV field service management series offered companies
with large field service staffs a comprehensive solution that automates all
operations and accounting areas of a service business. The new graphical dispatch
board allows organizations with mobile field technicians to easily dispatch
technicians through a graphical user interface, with access to each technician's
job schedule, locations and more, ensuring accurate scheduling and enhanced
With Release 4.50, Solomon IV delivered a new Object Model, providing flexibility
in automation and integration of third-party applications, as it makes any Solomon
screen available for automation, including standard screens and new screens
created by developers with the Solomon Tools for Visual Basic.
It also will incorporate any customizations in the object without additional
or duplicate work. In addition, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA)
increases the familiarity and usability of Solomon Customization Manager, enabling
developers to extend, integrate and personalize Solomon IV to meet businesses'
Again as a recap, former Microsoft Great Plains division claimed at the time of the release that the enhancements were made with the idea to move Solomon IV up the value chain and that the following parties would benefit from the new product's capabilities:
Distributors or manufacturers for
of work order and BOM
automation of the workflow in the supply chain
control of customer priority scheduling automation
supply chain visibility through the inventory inquiry status view
Project-oriented business wanting Internet-based access to their project management
Construction contractors requiring union payroll solution
Customers with mobile field service technicians who need a better dispatch
Any customer who
complex or advanced payroll processing
to improve business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-employees (B2E)
communication utilizing XML report formats
to efficiently capture distributed liabilities
improved customization and integration capabilities
This concludes Part One of a four-part note.
Part Two will discuss the market impact.
Part Three will cover product differentiators.
Four will present the vendor challenges and make user recommendations.