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Great Plains roams anew

Great Plains has struck a deal with a start-up developer of Web-based groupware called Radnet to bring the Internet to its accounting and financial management tools.

Great Plains Software has struck a deal with a start-up developer of Web-based groupware called Radnet to bring the Internet to its accounting and financial management tools.

The two companies signed an agreement to incorporate Radnet's WebShare Server into Dynamics NetTools financial suite during Great Plains' annual developers conference last week. The new tool will use a standard Web browser to add Internet and intranet capabilities to the Great Plains' Dynamics and Dynamics C/S+ client server applications that are popular with medium-size companies.

NetApps, an "employee self-service center," will be the first to market early next year by way of a beta test in the fourth quarter, the companies said. It is designed to give employees access to personal information, such as benefits and accrued vacation time that is stored on the company intranet. It will cost between $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the size of server, said Cecil Bordages, general manager of the company's Internet group.

"There is a large marketplace out there for midrange companies seeking to improve their business process," said Bordages, who says the Dynamics suite will reduce accounting time and errors. The company has sold earlier versions of its client-server financial management suite to more than 7,000 companies with 100 employees or fewer, making it one of the most popular accounting products among midsized firms, according to analysts.

But Bordages expects new Internet capabilities to win Great Plains additional customers. "Since the tools use the Internet and do not require additional infrastructure, they will open up a broader market," he said.

Great Plains and Radnet are working on other tools that they plan to develop jointly and with software partners. Each one will focus on paperless routing of accounting data--like purchase requisitions, time cards, and expense accounts--that originate in other departments and must make their way through an approval process before ending on an accountant's desktop.

Ian Campbell, director of collaborative technologies with International Data Corporation, said more joint development strategies are likely to emerge as traditional software makers take to the Net and bring groupware to vertical markets.

"This is a big area for small, nimble companies that want to develop custom applications for vertical markets," Campbell said.

Assuming that most accountants are unfamiliar with groupware applications and might be cautious about putting company financial data on an intranet, the applications will use WebShare's encryption tools and a security system that limit employee access, according to Donald Bulens, Radnet's president and chief executive.

The company has received high marks from analysts since opening its doors last year is seeking to partner with other software makers looking to take traditional products online and lend them collaborative tools, he said.

"We view this as the first the invitation," Bulens said. "Radnet will seek to partner with companies with LAN-based (local area network) technologies as they look to extend to the Web."