As a Senior Director and Manufacturing Industry Lead for Microsoft Dynamics, Melissa Cook talks to many Microsoft customers and partners about evolving ERP directions and Microsoft’s vision for manufacturing business solutions. I talked with her about our new Product Engineering App, which extends Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 into the mobile arena and supports field engineers with the ability to record and manage engineering change requests (ECR), engage through social media regarding product issues, and use business intelligence to understand how ECRs affect products throughout their lifecycle.
Before we spoke, Cook had downloaded the app, experimented with it for a few days, and showed it to several colleagues and Microsoft customers. She points out that the app supports an under-served set of users in innovative ways.
“Field engineers and engineering managers represent personas that do not always benefit from new ERP capabilities as quickly as other types of users,” she says. “To-Increase bridges this gap by providing them with an app that provides practical ECR submission and lookup capabilities, connects them directly to key information in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 system, and also provides social media and business insight capabilities. I find it extremely exciting that the app delivers powerful, far-reaching functionality together with a very personal Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 user experience for the engineering community.”
Changing the Perception of ERP and a Key Manufacturing Role
Even for people familiar with contemporary ERP systems, it can be challenging to understand what a solution like Microsoft Dynamics AX is capable of and how it affects people and processes. A mobile app like To-Increase’s offers a new way to understand and evaluate the system.
“ERP systems can be notoriously difficult to demonstrate in a meaningful, personal way,” says Cook. “You cannot simply show all the capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics AX and hope that your audience will get a good sense of the solution. The Product Engineering App, however, delivers the ERP experience in an intimate, personal way. People can touch the product and engage with it in a practical manner, using social media, mapping, photography, and collaboration capabilities. It’s the difference between giving somebody a map of a city and inviting them into your home. Mobile apps finally make ERP personal.”
Cook also appreciates that To-Increase is showcasing engineering professionals who are the most likely users of the app.
“We don’t generally associate engineers with the ideas of ERP or social media, which is unfortunate. By serving the engineer persona with modern mobile apps that take advantage of information in an ERP system and social collaboration tools, we show how modern ERP systems can be used to enable the engineering function.”
Vertical Leadership Fosters Valuable Innovation
Microsoft and Cook consider To-Increase a highly valuable partner and are pleased to see the Product Engineering App extend the reach and value of Microsoft Dynamics AX and help to raise awareness about what ERP and modern software design can accomplish.
Says Cook, “To-Increase is one of the largest and most successful global manufacturing ISVs for Microsoft Dynamics AX. I expect our leading vertical partners to play an important role in bringing valuable, powerful, personal business apps to enterprises, so I’m very excited that To-Increase is the first to release an app targeted at the engineering function within manufacturing companies. I have had a chance to demonstrate the app to several customers already and it is very well received. The To Increase Product Engineering App draws people into a very personal experience. Customers immediately see the potential of what they can accomplish with it. It’s very intuitive—just download it off the Windows App Store and go.”
The future will likely bring many other apps from To-Increase and other ISVs, now that the first one for manufacturers is available on the Windows App Store and finds a strong response.
“I’m looking forward to seeing other personas receiving the same level of empowerment that To-Increase is giving field engineers,” says Cook. “Apps as a critical and personal business tool have a huge potential that we have barely begun to exploit.”
If you are interested in Melissa Cook’s sense of the manufacturing industry and Microsoft’s role in supporting it, you may want to read the interview she gave Manufacturing.net in May 2013.