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Microsoft Great Plains & CRM in Transportation & Logistics ? Overview

Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains and MS CRM (client relation management system) are very popular in various industries and market niches. In previous article we described Microsoft Great Plains implementation for transportation & logistics company. Having more material, we would like to share with you how you can leverage Microsoft Business Solutions products to automate your business. We'll try to be both technical and business processes specific and be laconic to comply the rules of tiny article.

? Cargo/Shipment Tracking System. Transportation & Logistics industry is pretty mature and you more likely have industry standard (like Efreight) or custom system. So, if you plan to implement new ERP ? it should be tightly integrated with your cargo tracking system.

? Customer Base. This is the question of the core application. If you have to sell to a large number of prospects and track their relatively small shipments ? you should first consider Microsoft CRM, which has Sales and Service modules. In this case ? you should enable shipment status lookup from MS CRM screens. In the case when you ship to limited number of large customers ? you are focusing on the profitability of the shipments and looking at Great Plains as the core system.

? Agent Settlement. This seems to be logistics industry feature. You use agents and settle their AR/AP invoices on the monthly or weekly basis. In Great Plains you should use customer/vendor consolidation, available for Great Plains Professional version. Plus you will need Great Plains Dexterity or .Net customization to link SOP and POP invoices in the settlement process.

? eConnect. Each logistics business has unique business processes and this is why we see software developers in staff plus strong IT department. This makes eConnect (Microsoft Great Plains SDK) very popular among logistics companies. You can create Great Plains objects: Customers, Invoices, Purchase Orders, etc. Plus it allows you to eliminate GP licenses cost ? you can have users work with Great Plains through web forms

? Integration Technology. In the case of both Great Plains and Microsoft CRM you use MS SQL Server linked server technology. Then you deploy MS CRM SDK, Dexterity, Heterogeneous Stored Procedures.

? Programming Tools. You use Visual Studio.Net to program MS CRM lookups, in some cases you can use WebMatrix, but we do not recommend tools, which do not have rich debugging features.

? Reporting. Crystal Reports is the tool of choice. You should create heterogeneous SQL view and base you Crystal Report on this view. Microsoft CRM security suggests you to use MS CRM SDK or built-in Crystal Reports Enterprise to comply.

? MS CRM Messaging. Microsoft CRM Exchange connector has relatively straightforward mechanism ? GUID in the message header. If you need advanced messaging ? capturing emails, based on contact email or domain ? you main consider advanced connector, developed and supported by Alba Spectrum Technologies. In some cases you would like to use Lotus Notes Domino as email server ? this is also possible.

You can always have us help you, give us a call: 1-630-961-5918 or 1-866-528-0577, help@albaspectrum.com

Andrew Karasev is consultant and CTO in Alba Spectrum Technologies ( http://www.albaspectrum.com ) ? Microsoft Business Solutions partner, serving clients in Illinois, New York, California, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Virginia, Minnesota, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, Asia, Russia. He is Microsoft Great Plains certified master, Great Plains Dexterity, Microsoft CRM SDK C#.Net, Crystal Repots developer.

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