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In my last Edge blog "Powerfully Simple" I took a closer look at the real product benefits and capabilities that lie behind the "Powerful" half of the "Powerfully Simple" headline that you will see used in many of our communications associated with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. In this blog, I want to complete the other half of the picture by focusing on "Simple".
Simplicity is a word that you hear a lot in the ERP industry. A ubiquitous promise that can often appear to be more "force of habit" than serious "driving force" for product development. But where many in the industry could claim that they offer powerful solutions, often based on the sheer monolithic size and complexity of their offerings, few would be able to claim (at least while keeping a straight face) that their solutions are also simple to use.
The reality is that without a considerable and concerted effort to integrate simplicity into every facet of the solution - and through every phase of its development - power and simplicity inevitably end up being opposing forces instead of complementary strengths. Which is a shame for the users, because simplicity enables user engagement, accelerates user adoption and advocacy, and drives user productivity, innovation and impact. And what companies are really looking for are solutions that enable simplicity, cost-efficiency and agility without sacrificing power.
As with previous Microsoft Dynamics AX releases, simplicity has been a primary design theme and development tenet for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. A constant touchstone to help us scope new functionality and capabilities in the solution, and to strike a balance between exciting our developers and delighting our customers.
The most obvious, and often most difficult place to surface simplicity is in the user experience. Microsoft Dynamics AX is already leading the field here, with considerable enhancements in the coming release including additional Role Centers and enhanced data visualization, preview and navigation features. But it's not enough that the user interface is familiar, simple to learn and intuitive to use, it also needs to be consistent whether you are in the office or working remotely through a portal solution. With Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, the experience across Windows client and SharePoint client are so similar it becomes a non-issue. This familiarity and simplicity of use in the user experience also extends to bi-directional interoperability with Microsoft Office 2010, enabling users to access and refresh data in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 without even leaving Excel and Word.
But simplicity should extend beyond your own desktop. It's also about making it easier to work and collaborate with others. Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 integrates Microsoft Lync technology to enable presence information and instant access to help keep employees connected with colleagues, customers, suppliers, and partners. SharePoint integration not only simplifies basic supply chain collaboration with vendor and customer portals, but also allows employees to quickly create collaboration sites, where they can share information with team members, directly from within the ERP solution. And cloud-based services, such as Sites Services for Microsoft Dynamics ERP, extend Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 business processes and workflows on the web, empowering businesses to collaborate with customers and vendors with minimal IT investment.
Finally, simplicity should also be a recurring feature in every stage of the product lifecycle. For Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, we have examined and streamlined every step of the product installation process to remove unnecessary steps, eliminate opportunities for error, and streamline the interaction between IT and application roles - dramatically shortening and simplifying the process. We have also simplified the security set up with an enterprise-ready security framework and tools, and System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) integration helps simplify ongoing system maintenance. At the other end of the life cycle, optimized upgrade advisors, tools, and processes speed upgrade activities and reduce the impact on the daily business by, for example, allowing a much greater proportion of the upgrade process to take place offline.
So with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, you can let simplicity drive user adoption and productivity with a consistent, familiar experience, effortless Microsoft Office interoperability, and improved collaboration across the extended supply chain. At the same time, your IT staff can spend less time on application life cycle management and maintenance, and more time focusing on strategic development.
At the end of the day, it's all about delivering simplicity without sacrificing power. Or as Einstein once put it: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
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