Microsoft Small Business Manager 7.5

By Patricia Fusco | Posted July 24, 2003

Born from Microsoft's Nov. 2001 acquisition of Great Plains Software, Small Business Manager has come a long way in serving small business management needs over the past few years. Great Plains remains a well-known financial software solutions provider under Microsoft's guidance — small businesses should expect no less from the latest iteration of Small Business Manager.

Small Business Manager 7.5, released earlier this week, is designed as a better way for growing businesses to effectively manage their assets, streamline order fulfillment, and get a better handle on their inventories. Be it how orders are processed, how inventory is managed, how fixed assets are accounted for, or how payroll is managed, Small Business Manager 7.5 is all about creating new efficiencies in smaller businesses.

Karen Engel, Microsoft Business Solutions group product manager, said the Fargo-based group is committed to delivering compelling products and services to small businesses.

"Small Business Manager 7.5 is geared toward customers that are outgrowing packaged software," Engel said. "It offers a greater breadth of functionality and control in a single package that's affordable and easy to use."

For those small businesses that are bursting at the seams trying to make Microsoft Money, Intuit's QuickBooks, or Peachtree Accounting work for their wholesale, distribution or manufacturing business, Small Business Manager 7.5 is a step in the right direction.

Key enhancements to Small Business Manager 7.5 include improved fixed asset management, allowing small businesses to manage the depreciation of assets such as equipment and vehicles or computer gear in a much more efficient manner.

New inventory management features include support for direct shipments from vendors to customers, the ability to handle partial order quantities, as well as manage and forecast assembly components. Small businesses can prevent stock outages with e-mail inventory reminders, and receive notification for nonexistent item numbers.

New payroll and deduction features allow small businesses more efficient management of work-force records and withholding requests. Small businesses are also able to track workers' compensation, connect automatically with ADP Payroll Service and choose from 24 new payroll reports.

Other new features include support for additional financial reporting tools from FRx Software, a Microsoft subsidiary, and business and intelligence tools from Crystal Decisions. The resulting integrative capabilities allow small businesses to build custom reports and consolidate financial reporting, while maintaining control of sensitive information.

Also new is the pricing scheme for Small Business Manager 7.5. Microsoft has revamped its license and support pricing for the latest release. A single user license for Small Business Manager 7.5 is $995; concurrent users (for up to 10 users) run $400 each.

Engel explained how the customer support pricing works and what it provides for small business users.

"Our enhancement plan is required for the first year of use," Engel said. "It used to be a flat fee, but now its 18 percent of the licensing fees. The foundation services plan provides phone and e-mail contacts for support, as well as access to a secure Web area with discussion groups. The service also includes any upgrades for the next 12-months."

Basically, a 10-concurrent user office that is just getting started with Small Business Manager 7.5 can expect to shell out about $5,900 to get the ball rolling. But Microsoft figures this is a small price to pay for enabling small businesses to handle a variety of inventory, accounting, and personnel management tasks more efficiently.

Microsoft Business Solutions Small Business Manager 7.5 is available immediately through Microsoft Business Solutions reseller partners and consultant partners. Small Business Manager is also backed by more than 100 independent software developers, for those small businesses that are more project-oriented than inventory-based, ISVs have developed add-on programs that work seamlessly with Small Business Manager 7.5.

Engel said that reseller and ISV adoption of Small Business Manager is critical to the applications success in the small- to medium-sized business arena.

"Small Business Manager 7.5 is available through our network of dedicated, local partners that have a proven track record when it comes to fully customizing technology and helping small businesses get up to speed quickly," Engel said.

From financial management to order fulfillment and vendor management, Small Business Manager 7.5 provides just about all the tools a small company needs to manage their business better and leave room to adapt to ever-changing markets.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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