Microsoft has made available a public preview of a "completely reinvented" business management solution for SMBs that links business processes with productivity tools in Office 365.
Currently codenamed Project Madeira, the solution will be delivered as a cloud service running on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, with customer access via a web browser or apps running on Windows systems or Apple iOS and Android mobile devices.
The Project Madeira public preview is currently available only to testers in the US, and is slated for full availability in the region sometime during the second half of 2016. Other countries will follow later, Microsoft said.
Project Madeira is described as a completely reinvented business management solution for SMBs, and targets growing companies that typically have 10 to 100 employees.
Such businesses need more than the simple financial and accounting tools they started with, according to Microsoft, but are not in a position to make a large investment in something like a customised enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
The new solution is thus intended to offer many of the capabilities of full-blown business management tools, but in an affordable and easy to access cloud service.
"Without sacrificing ease of use or speed of setup, Project Madeira offers a fully powered business management solution in the cloud, with capabilities spanning financials, dimensions, sales and purchase management, inventory, CRM (opportunity management), multi-currency and business insight," said Marko Perisic, general manager for Microsoft Dynamics SMB, on the Microsoft Dynamics blog.
The solution is designed to integrate with Microsoft's Office 365 suite, which the company is keen for businesses to adopt as it combines software and services delivered on a subscription basis rather than one-off licence fee.
However, delivering Project Madeira as an embedded experience in Office 365 means that firms will be able to manage customers, vendors, quotes and invoice data without leaving Outlook, Microsoft said.
It also works with Power BI, Microsoft's visualisation tool for business intelligence, to create interactive reports based on operational data.
"In addition, Microsoft's ecosystem of independent software vendors is building rich extensions for Project Madeira. These cover horizontal add-on functionality as well as full industry-specific vertical solutions. They will be available in a marketplace soon," Perisic added.
Project Madeira is understood to be based on Microsoft Dynamics NAV, an existing ERP solution for SMBs, which the firm is overhauling to enable it to operate as a cloud-based service.
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