SAP-Microsoft ‘Duet’ sings for end users

Microsoft and SAP plan to ship their jointly developed Project Mendocino software, now known as "Duet," in June. The software is designed to allow users of Microsoft's Office applications to access selected SAP business processes and data.

First announced about a year ago, the project establishes tight links between Microsoft's Office applications—the Outlook e-mail client, the Excel spreadsheet app, etc.—with Walldorf, Germany-based SAP's accounting, human resources and inventory software systems. Users of the Outlook calendar, for example, will be able to synchronize and update appointments with mySAP ERP automatically to record work and billable hours.

Microsoft and SAP will market, sell, and support the software jointly.

The two companies plan to issue upgrades later this year in the form of two "value packs" that will provide links between Office and SAP's CRM and supply-chain management applications, the companies said. Future "scenarios" supported by Duet include recruitment management, travel management, analytics, purchasing management, and sales activity management.

Industry analyst Neil Macehiter sees Duet as a solution that recognizes a core reality of the business-IT relationship. Too much of the discussion around business process management and automation, he says, is about "the shadow that IT casts on real business processes."

"In reality, the vast majority of business processes involve people," Macehiter says. "And people need to interact with [these processes] within the context of their daily activities. Mendocino/Duet recognizes this need and provides a means of interacting with business processes automated through SAP via the tools that people commonly use."

During a conference call with reporters and analysts, Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division, acknowledged that the two companies also have a competitive relationship. But he insisted that, for this project at least, they are working well as partners.

Duet gives Microsoft a clear shot at existing SAP customers, Macehiter says, and it also gives the desktop software giant a jump on arch-rival, IBM, which could benefit from providing similar SAP access from its Workplace productivity products, but has announced no such strategy.

Shai Agassi, president of SAP's product and technology group, told reporters and analysts that he believes the financial impact of the product on his company could be "huge." He pointed out that in most SAP customer accounts, almost all end users work with Office, while far fewer use SAP applications directly.

"We have the potential ability to grow fourfold by looking at the number of employees in a corporation versus the number of users that are professional users of SAP," he says.

A handful of customers have been testing Duet since December, and Microsoft and SAP plan to expand their early access program this week to include about 100 customers, Agassi says.

Atmel, a semiconductor integrated device manufacturer with $2 billion in revenue and about 7500 employees, is one of the early users of the software. Atmel's CIO Mikes Sisois told AppTrends that the company has been an SAP customer since 2000.

"SAP runs everything in here but manufacturing and engineering," Sisois said. "Finance, marketing, shipping, planning—all of those things are SAP-driven."

Atmel signed on to test drive the Mendocino Project because it seemed like the perfect solution to a nagging problem. "A small percent of our knowledge workers are using SAP all day long in their jobs," Sisois said, "and a large percentage of our people need to get to SAP on occasion. But the larger group is not too familiar with it, and it's too expensive to teach them all the details of how to get to SAP just to get a little report once in a while. When we saw Mendocino announced, we thought it was the ideal solution for this second group of people, the occasional SAP users in our company, who live in Outlook."

Atmel has set up a pilot environment to test Duet—a dedicated Duet server connected to an Exchange server—and currently has it deployed to a pilot group of 35 users. Sisois expects to have completed the test in about two months, timing it to coincide with the completion of the company's conversion to MySAP 2004, currently underway. "So far, so good," he said.

Duet is scheduled for general availability on June 28, priced at $125 per PC.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].