30 Jan 2013 7:20 AM Choose a business solution that delivers consistent innovation When you've outgrown your entry-level accounting software, a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution will shape the future of your business in important ways. An agile solution you can modify quickly and cost-effectively when your business needs change, and one that draws on new technologies as they emerge, will help you stay in control, work more productively, and gain insights that drive smart decisions. The wrong business solution could cost you time and money as it ages, and distract you from running your business. We've created a 10-point checklist to help you avoid pitfalls in your search for a new business management solution. We've discussed one point from the checklist each week for the past seven weeks, Catch up on the series to date by clicking on the link for each individual post: Goes beyond traditional ERP Offers deployment flexibility and choice Features strong customer-vendor relationships Integrates easily with other LOB applications Delivers ease of use Provides cost predictability Enables forward-looking insight This week, we stress the value of a business solution powered by a continuous stream of technology innovation, so that it will meet your needs down the road as well as it did the day you bought it. Look for ongoing innovation to keep your business management solution up-to-date Plenty of vendors offer solutions that look good today. These competitively priced products seem to fit your current needs and look like they could help you run your current business smoothly. But will that still be true two years from now? Or five? Your business will have changed by then. And who can predict economic conditions, competitive developments, or legislative changes with certainty? What new technologies will emerge to make today's state-of-the-art tools and capabilities feel old-school? Do the vendors you're talking to have a long-term technology vision? Can they show you their detailed roadmap for incorporating new technology and rolling out new releases? If not, they risk being overtaken by the future. And choosing your new business management solution from a vendor like this could jeopardize your company's future, too. Look for a vendor with a history of consistent product releases and technology advancements. Ask each to see their technology roadmap and challenge them on how they will deliver it. In particular, see if their roadmap: Embraces new technologies, like cloud computing, that offer you flexibility and choice. Continually improves interoperability with customer relationship management (CRM) and other business productivity applications. Progress here can boost productivity and reduce operating costs. Enhances the underlying technology platform. This helps simplify application integration, so you can use and upgrade line-of-business software created by other vendors. A business solution from Microsoft delivers innovation you can count on Microsoft invests billions of dollars each year on R&D to drive advances like flexible, cloud-based deployment options; continuous refinement of the Microsoft platform (the Windows operating system and Microsoft .NET); and ongoing advances in the interoperability of products like Microsoft Office, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Microsoft SQL Server. And you can count on extended support for the business solution version you purchase for up to 10 years from its release date (for more information, visit http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle). Microsoft customers also enjoy visibility into product life cycles and roadmaps, and Statements of Direction that describe how solutions will evolve 12-18 months in advance of the next version releases. A strong and upfront product roadmap enables you to undertake your own IT planning with greater confidence. It offers visibility into the future that puts you in control of your technology plan and helps you to budget accordingly. Customer success story Small and midsize organizations around the world trust Microsoft for business solutions that are continuously updated to capitalize on new technologies. For example, a manufacturer chose its business solution from Microsoft to gain cloud technology that helps hold down costs, and a technology roadmap that enables the company to plan its own future with confidence. Faribault Woolen Mill Co. "The ability to have an ERP solution based in the cloud was critical for us, as it allowed us to deploy the software very quickly. And we were confident knowing that it was a proven product from Microsoft.... Microsoft Dynamics will be there to support us." Paul Mooty, Chief Financial Officer Needs Benefits Automated production process management Accounting system enhancements Capital and operating cost control Platform for future growth Inventory/bill of materials management tools in place A/P, A/R, and order processing capabilities in place IT hardware, software, and operating costs minimized with cloud-based solution Quick, easy scaling to accommodate rapid sales growth Ability to bring more capabilities on stream in the future Join us next week for part 9 of our blog series, when we'll ask you to look carefully at how the solutions you're considering will help you drive and support growth for your business. Until then, learn more about a business solution from Microsoft, take a product test drive, or register for an upcoming webcast.