New software add-ons enhance, extend

SAN FRANCISCO (11/10/2003) - Buying a software application alone is not enough: two companies are releasing add-ons that expand their applications with functions suited to particular vertical markets.

Microsoft Corp. this week is releasing the second in a line of seven Microsoft Office Solution Accelerators for its suite. The Office Solution Accelerator for Proposals is intended primarily for users on sales teams who are writing sales proposals, and includes tools and templates to streamline the practice.

Also, Database developer FileMaker Inc. is shipping the fourth in a series of packaged business applications designed for use with its FileMaker database, in both Windows and Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh formats. The newest, FileMaker Donations, is designed to help charitable organizations and other non-profits manage donor and fund-raising information.

FileMaker Donations keeps track

FileMaker Donations is available for download this week. The US$129 application requires FileMaker 6 Pro, and the company is offering a bundle of FileMaker Donations and FileMaker Pro 6 for $363. Volume licensing is also available.

The program provides features to help fundraising managers set priorities and manage tasks associated with fundraising and donor management, according to FileMaker representatives. For example, it provides people-tracking features, similar to the contact-tracking in an earlier FileMaker add-on program, FileMaker Recruiter, released earlier this year.

It also provides templates to track volunteers, communications, donor histories and other typical tasks of managing a fund-raising project.

"We assume that groups will use Donations using FileMaker Server," says John Dasher, product manager for FileMaker applications. "It makes sense, and most fund-raising campaigns have staffs associated with them, often for things like making calls from a group listing, or processing received donations. We make sure the each user is logged in so that you always know who created or last modified a record."

FileMaker also recently launched a site dedicated to assisting non-profit organizations.

Microsoft extends Office

The Microsoft Office Solution Accelerators include a server component and are designed for use by midsize businesses and large enterprises, starting at about 300 users, says Ingo Friedrichowitz, product planning manager for Office Solutions Accelerators.

It is not an out-of-the box solution; IT managers, system integrators, or other Microsoft partners are customizing the programs to meet an organization's needs, Friedrichowitz says.

"The idea is to provide value to customers who have already invested in Office," he says. The Solution Accelerator for Proposals can tap into a corporate SQL Server database for information, and provides forms for online collaboration as well as Word templates. The program integrates with Office 2003 Professional Edition, with a similar and familiar interface, Friedrichowitz adds.

Anyone can download the software to check it out, but production licenses are available only through Microsoft's software assurance program, a corporate program offered at a sliding scale.

The first in Microsoft's series of Office Solution Accelerators is a personnel recruitment management tool, targeted at human resource workers, which shipped earlier this year. It differs from FileMaker's recruitment management add-on by relying on a server component, and being targeted at the enterprise.

Microsoft is readying a number of other Office Solution Accelerators for release in the next nine months, Friedrichowitz says.

Among those are programs for Excel Reporting, Business Scorecards (performance assessment and decision-making), and for financial institutions using Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL). With its partners, Microsoft is also developing an Office Solution Accelerator for use with Six Sigma methodologies, and one to help organizations comply with requirements of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

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