2 Jan 2013 1:01 PM The right business management solution connects your LOB applications to take your business forward If finding a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution was on your list of New Year's resolutions, this blog series can help you navigate what can seem to be a complex research process. During which you must carefully weigh multiple factors to find the business management solution that's right for you. We've created a 10-point evaluation checklist to guide you through this process, and we're examining one checklist item weekly over a 10-week period. So far, we've covered three items (follow the links to read the full discussions): Goes beyond traditional ERP Offers deployment flexibility and choice Features strong customer-vendor relationships This week, we underscore the importance of picking a business management solution that integrates easily with other line-of-business (LOB) applications that your organization depends on. Choose a business management solution that easily connects with your LOB applications Today's powerful ERP and other LOB applications, such as customer relationship management, collaboration, and analytical tools, hold great potential for helping you get more control of operations, streamline business processes and workflows, boost productivity, and gain deeper insight into your business. But if these applications aren't smoothly integrated, the potential remains untapped. Systems that don't work together duplicate data entry, miss insights, drive costs up and results down, and squander opportunities. So when you weigh your options, be sure you understand how well your new system will integrate with your other mission-critical systems, and how much effort it will take to get the connection you need. Some ERP vendors might suggest that you can reduce integration complexity and cost by simplifying the processes you're integrating. Be careful here. Simplification might help initially, but at the end of the day, your business processes need to support your real business, not a simplified version of it. And you could end up incurring those "saved" IT costs later, if you decide you really need the integration you gave up at the start. Here's one final thing to think about: you may want technical assistance in connecting your data and applications. So be sure the vendors you're considering, or their implementation partners, can be there when you need them, to help connect your systems for end-to-end business process improvement. A business solution from Microsoft simplifies integration You don't have to choose either powerful, flexible capabilities or streamlined, affordable integration. With Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions, you can have both. Integrating data sources and applications is easier, even if they're not built on Microsoft platforms, using web services and the Microsoft .NET Framework. Taking this approach, partners and customers can simplify the integration between their Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions and their third-party applications. There's a good chance your business and employees already use other Microsoft software-Microsoft Office, for example, or Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Microsoft SharePoint Server. Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions work like and with these products and provide additional interoperability to add even more value for you and your ERP users. And a global community of local Microsoft partners with deep application integration and business expertise is available to help unlock the power of Microsoft technology for you and your business. Customer success story Small and midsize organizations around the world, in a wide variety of businesses, use solutions from Microsoft to discover and tap their full potential. Here's one brief example: Denmark's second-largest airport integrated Microsoft Dynamics ERP with its financial and retail management systems. The results? More control, more productivity, more insight. A fast return on investment (ROI). And retail shop business that takes off. Billund Airport"Not only would Microsoft Dynamics ERP ease integration with our shopping partner's ERP system ... extended with retail functionality, we could have a single solution that met all our needs, both from a financial management and retail management perspective.... We have dramatically improved our insight ... and now we can optimize our storefront accordingly." Jan Hessellund, Retail Manager Challenges Benefits Integration with third-party ERP system. More sophisticated financial management tools. Financial/retail management system integration. Deeper insight into sales data to optimize shelf stocking for greater revenue. Improved efficiency/productivity. Rapid ROI. Integration with third-party ERP system. Retail/financial management system integration. Comprehensive view of the retail business. Ten percent retail shopping revenue increase. ROI < 1 year. RoleTailored user interface and integration with Microsoft Outlook improved employee efficiency and productivity. Join us next week for part 5 of our blog series, when we'll look at the importance of finding a solution that is easy to use and deploy. Until then, learn more about a business solution from Microsoft, take a product test drive, or register for an upcoming webcast.