The Beginnings of Microsoft Dynamics AX in Retail
Historically, Microsoft’s ERP product, Dynamics AX, had very little functionality focused in the retail space. The AX2009 product release was the first time the retail module was seen and although it was a good base for today’s solution it did not offer the same depth of functionality we see in the more up-to-date versions. It seemed Microsoft had very little understanding of the industry and the use of the product was very limited with retail clients.
During the annual Microsoft Convergence event in Atlanta 2011, this all changed and it became clear that Microsoft was becoming far more au fait with the retail industry, with brand new functionality being pushed with the release of AX2012. From the first release of AX2012 it was clear they had done some major modifications on the product, specifically focusing within retail.
There were still concerns surrounding the product and its ability to stand alone in the retail industry, especially against other successful products such as Oracle Retail and SAP, however the release of AX2012 R2 was a big turning point for the product. This is when the functionality was finally seen as truly valuable for retailers. It became compatible with scanners in store and for the first time retailers could see their full transactional history across all channels, including eCommerce and retail stores, in a single commerce run-time engine.
The Current Market
With the release of new functionality, big name retailers were beginning to see the real benefits Microsoft Dynamics AX could bring to their business and some early adopters included Crew Clothing, Fortnum & Mason and Mole Valley Farmers.
It was with the release of AX2012 R3 in May 2013 that it became evident that Microsoft had got an even deeper understanding of the industry, more types of payment systems were included with the realisation that there are many channels customers use to purchase goods other than the web and till systems and this made it a much more viable platform. AX2012 R3 also offers much better capability for handling the challenges of product lifecycle associated with the fashion industry. The large range of enhancements included functionality which allowed customers to buy online and collect in-store, retail channel integration to allow more customer interaction and feedback and the ability to implement promotional discounts and coupons.
In addition to Microsoft’s enhancements to the core product, K3 Retail also built their own fashion-focused module which sits on top of AX Retail, AX|is Fashion. This product offers a flexible and scalable solution which, according to K3’s website, gives fashion clients access to customized tools, pre-configured to align to specific fashion tasks and processes, drive agility and productivity. The development of AX|is Fashion has helped give K3 the status of Microsoft ISV of the Year 2014.
What is the Future of Microsoft Dynamics AX within Retail?
Now that big name brands like Ted Baker and Hunter Boots are adopting the Microsoft solution, the future of Microsoft Dynamics AX within the retail industry looks set to be the big thing for AW14! The next big challenge for Microsoft Dynamics AX is the breadth and depth of retail-specific functionality to match growing retailer demand brought on by the raising of consumer expectations.
Peter Ward, AX Retail Solution Architect at Microsoft suggests that they are addressing these challenges: “Today’s retailer needs to know its consumer and engage with them personally. They need to differentiate and offer a seamless, complete experience in an omni-channel environment. Microsoft Dynamics AX is focusing on today’s retailer demands to offer true omni-channel retail, innovative marketing and end-to-end customer care with advanced supply chain and financials – offering real-time, actionable insight across all channels of the business. Continued investment in global, deep industry SCM and Retail functionality, modern apps and private and public cloud make being part of the delivery team at Microsoft Dynamics AX very exciting and energizing”.
The growth in the market also brings with it recruitment challenges as AX and ERP skill sets struggle to grow at the same speed. However, this challenge should even itself out over time as Microsoft continue to invest heavily in retail as a whole, resulting in Dynamics AX becoming a powerhouse within the fashion sector.
What’s your view on the challenges Microsoft are likely to face as they parade the IT and Business catwalks of the world?
By Claire Colquhoun. Special thanks to Peter Ward.
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