Saturday, February 2, 2013

'Next-Gen RMS' aka Retail SMB unveiled by Microsoft

UPDATE 2/14/2014: Microsoft is releasing 'Retail Essentials'. While it is not replacing RMS, it is truly the next-Gen of a POS due to the large enhancements to the retail experience. It is AX as headquarters and the enterprise POS (ePOS) and mobile POS (mPOS) with a simplified AX retail architecture. The future is bright for the SMB market. I will publish several posts about this in detail in the near future. I have seen it and it is the future!

<ORIGINAL POST BELOW>
Exciting news in the Dynamics Retail realm. Microsoft is going to finally release an RMS and AX 'light' solution. The below is some information released about it from a few different locations (not sure how many are rumors but here is a collection of info):
  • Designed to give small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) the advantages of Microsoft Dynamics AX, but without the unnecessary features. 1
  • The new RMS product is going under the working title of "next-gen RMS," will be released near the end of this year according to Michael Griffiths.1 
  • The upgraded RMS product is also being referred to as "Retail SMB.1
  • Microsoft will continue to build on RMS as they are committed to their SMB retail customers and partners.1
  • Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail, a.k.a., Microsoft Dynamics for Retail, which provides the building blocks of the new SMB retail offering.  3
  • "The vision of omnichannel is showing that all these channels are powered by AX, and now are powered by one commerce engine, the commerce runtime," explained Melissa Stern, senior industry analyst for retail, Microsoft Dynamics. 3  Note: Heavy RTS dependence?
    • 'Line-busting' will be a focus. This a mobile POS which can be used to dampen the effects of things like excessive holiday lines that exceed normal 'peak' capacities.
    • "When we talk about mobility - whether it's phone, or its slate, or a kiosk somewhere in the store, or a thin-web client -- (There are) lots of different platforms, lots of different form factors, the retail server is one way to provide that experience without having to write all the individual one-off solutions."  ~Jeff Blucher, Microsoft program manager
    • Consistency throughout all the channels; one set of rules used consistently throughout all the channels
    • Back end will dictate pricing, discounts and tax calculations like AX for Retail does today
  • Microsoft is intending to release the new version of RMS in 2013. 4
  • New product will effectively supersede both Dynamics RMS 2.0 and POS 2009 4
  • Will be built on a flexible and advanced business software platform shared with Dynamics AX 4 
  • Customers current on the Service Plan will be able to upgrade to the next generation RMS for no additional license costs. 4
  • The following features will be focused on in this new version:
    • Store management control;
    • Role-based, touch optimized, customizable POS user-interface;
    • Merchandising enhancements for loyalty, pricing, and promotion;
    • Replenishment, assortment management;
    • Alerts and monitoring for hardware, user-interface profiles, and data flows;
    • Multi-channel capabilities:
    • Catalog management, cross channel workflows,
    • Integrated sales channel management,
    • Social commerce;
    • Services (payments, commerce, sites);
    • Microsoft stack integration for Visual Studio, Office, and SharePoint;
    • Localization for individual countries.
  • 'Unnecessary features' like HR and CRM will not be in the AX light version but can be added to the solution if needed 5 Note: This makes me think it will be same code base as full version of AX
Background:
In the Microsoft Dynamics Retail realm, there are several tiers of retail software that a business could choose depending on their size and business needs: POS 2009, RMS 2.0, and AX for Retail. These point of sale solutions will allow tendering at the point of sale as well as integrations to the following Dynamic ERP solutions: Nav, GP and AX. To note, AX is the flagship ERP in the Dynamics product family with the most functionality and flexibility.

POS 2009 is good for very small businesses with only one or two stores. Usually outside consultants are not needed to implement this and the back end ERP is usually something like QuickBooks. RMS is good for small/medium businesses with a few brick and mortar locations. Usually this requires a consultant but not complex enough to keep one busy year round. Mainly just support during things like inventory counts and connection issues to HQ. AX for Retail usually fits in with the rest of the business models and requires a team of consultants to deploy but is robust with the AX back end and very scalable. Just to note, its primarily a cash and carry style POS but in AX 2012, you can create AX Sales Orders from within AX with it so the sky can really be the limit.

My thoughts:
RMS fits in with the majority of companies but there was a big issue with integrations with AX. While there are a few solutions out there to integrate these two, there was never an 'official' one. From what I've seen in a variety of industries, a company rarely lines up software-size wise between ERP and POS needs. It's pretty common that  a company is too small to use AX for Retail but is too big for GP/NAV/QuickBooks. The common consensus was to leverage AX in a limited capacity but alas we never saw anything. AX can fit with almost any business because of its readily customizable features and out of the box (OOTB) functionality. All business models have their quirks and AX is the best in the Microsoft ERP family to accommodate these when they are fairly large.

This new approach from Microsoft looks promising but I'm really interested to figure out what AX 'light' means. Is it going to use the same AX code base and program but be restricted to just certain functionality? Indication from what I've read so far is yes. There has always been 'rumors' that this would happen as it seemed like a natural progression so its good to see it actually coming to fruition. This is fantastic because it will give Microsoft the niche market of proving a single solution that runs RMS but needs very advanced, integrated functionality like HR or production.

Important
As an important take away, make sure your customers are current on their service plan so they will be able to upgrade to the next generation RMS for no additional license costs. 4

Sources:
  1. Microsoft Unveils Dynamics AX-based “Next-Gen RMS” at Retail Realm in Vegas
  2. community.dynamics.com - Microsoft Unveils Dynamics AX-based 'Next-Gen RMS' at Retail Realm in Vegas 
  3. MSDynamicsWorld.com - Understanding Microsoft's Next Gen RMS Begins with a Closer Look at Dynamics AX for Retail’s POS, Mobile, Omnichannel Capabilities  
  4. Retail Hero: RMS "New Version" 
  5. Mohamed Aamer - The Identity of Microsofts 'Next-Gen RMS' Will Be Deeper Than Its Dynamics AX Origins  

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