In 2002 Microsoft ran a competition, the “Microsoft Global Solutions Challenge”, where participants from around the world were required to showcase a solution using Dynamics GP and Microsoft Office. We created a solution using Dynamics GP, BizTalk Server, XML, Web Services, Office Web Components and Microsoft Excel. My role was lead architect/developer, and solution presenter.
In late 2001, after the dot-com boom crashed and employer Blueberry.net went out of business, I joined the Dynamics GP consultancy Tate Bramald. Tate Bramald was a company with a strong Dynamics history, having been former Worldwide Partner of the Year in 1997. I joined the company as a technical consultant / developer, which wasn’t too long after Microsoft’s acquisition of Great Plains in December 2000. There was a lot of buzz around Great Plains becoming Microsoft Business Solutions, and all the interesting potential of their products working together. Microsoft decided to run a competition where partners could demonstrate a solution where they used Microsoft Office and Dynamics GP, and our managing director, was on board. He commissioned a team consisting of myself, another developer and a functional consultant. In the next few weeks, we came up with a design and built our solution – “eEnable .NET”, which we also prototyped for our customer, SFI, who was a large pub, bar and hotel group in the UK. The solution was a customer-supplier enablement solution, where a customer could use an Excel spreadsheet to submit a purchase order (directly from Excel) right to the vendor’s Dynamics GP system, which would then send an email confirmation back with business analytics and reporting information.
The way it worked, was the customer would download a spreadsheet from the vendor, and enter customer specific information. The spreadsheet had a web service URL, and the (new) version of Excel allowed us to easily create XML out of the spreadsheet and submit it in a SOAP call to the web service. The web service would take the XML and pass it to Microsoft BizTalk Server, where it would run through an orchestration, transform the XML to eConnect format using the BizTalk mapper, and invoke the eConnect API sitting inside BizTalk. eConnect would then create a Sales Order in Dynamics GP, and on success, email the customer with a confirmation and order number. The customer could open the email and have Smart Tags associated with the order number to run specific actions, including going straight to a web page to track the order, and also open a web page to run useful business intelligence information about their order history, in a drag and drop interface utilizing office web components.
We built the solution, refined it, packaged it and sent it to Microsoft as part of the competition. When the finalists were announced, they sent us an email – we were down to the final 5. We flew out to Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington and presented to a panel. We were first in the day, first thing in the morning. I thought the presentation went well – the demo was strong and the solution was good. The team at Microsoft also looked like they enjoyed the experience. There were 4 finalists after us. On our way home at Seattle airport, we received an email – we heard the solution took first prize. A few months later, I later presented the solution during the keynote of the Microsoft Tech 2002 Conference in front of 700 developers. It was a great experience, especially being able to share with other like-minded people in the Dynamics and Microsoft community. After that, we created a case study with Microsoft strengthening the solution’s security model. You can see the video of my keynote presentation below.
My Keynote Presentation at the Microsoft Tech 2002 Conference: