Microsoft Business Solutions - Great PlainsREVIEWER: Jerry Zech, chief executive officer for

BACKGROUND: Based in Napa, California, is the world's largest Internet wine auction site, with 37 employees. More than 27,000 users bid in bimonthly auctions of more than 12,000 bottles.

PLATFORMS: Dell PowerEdge Server Family, Dell Pentium 3 OptiPlex and Dell Pentium 3 Latitude.

PROBLEM SOLVED: At, we struggled with three isolated, unsupported and expensive IT systems that made it difficult to extract business data and left no room for growth or customer service improvements. We wanted to make it easier for customers to find a growing amount of product on our online auction, and we wanted to respond to consignors in a more timely and professional manner. We also needed to make our business information available to our employees so they could work more productively.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We deployed Microsoft Business Solutions - Great Plains to provide a solid foundation for unifying our business processes - on time and on budget. The implementation cost us a fraction of the estimate we received from UNIX. We have increased revenue by 10 percent, improved auction performance, saved hundreds of hours per month and reduced accounting staff 43 percent.

STRENGTHS: With the ability to access customer data through Microsoft Great Plains invoices, employees at are gaining valuable insight into customer behavior and can create targeted marketing plans. We are able to send personalized e-mail messages to customers for future auctions based on their buying habits and can actually link them to their preferred products when the auction starts.

WEAKNESSES: Although the application provides functionality to help with ease of use, the previous version of Great Plains allowed a user to include thumbtacks on pages as helpful reminders for important data on that page.

SELECTION CRITERIA: My team and I initially looked at creating a new UNIX-based proprietary auction engine, but we decided that we would rather utilize the Microsoft ASP.NET developer skills we had in-house and save on UNIX developer fees. We also evaluated and rejected Linux because it didn't offer us any comfort down the road. We didn't see much support, we didn't see much of a developer community, we had no experience with it in house and we had concerns about how difficult it might be to work with. Additionally, we completed a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis and determined that with additional development, consulting and maintenance costs, Linux was hardly the "free" software we had first anticipated. This made a Microsoft solution even more compelling. We needed a standardized environment that our developers could fine-tune to our specific business needs.

DELIVERABLES: We create customer invoices to help track and monitor sales while using Great Plains to help integrate with a new wine database and auction engine.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The support offered by Microsoft Business Solutions was unprecedented. Our experience was wonderful, and we were impressed by the responsiveness and training we received on Great Plains.

DOCUMENTATION: The training documents we received are great - easy to follow and very clear. However, the training support we received was so comprehensive, we haven't needed to crack open the manuals!

Microsoft Business Solutions - Great Plains
Microsoft Business Solutions
1 Lone Tree Road
Fargo, ND 58104

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