SAP-Microsoft Collaboration Produces "Duet"
Published: May 3, 2006
by Alex Woodie
It might not be Sonny and Cher, but the duo of Microsoft and SAP appears to be in tune and--perhaps more importantly for Microsoft--on time. First announced a year ago as "Project Mendocino," the partnership is on the cusp of delivering its first product, dubbed "Duet," which will connect SAP's ERP software with Microsoft's Office applications. The vendors said yesterday that Duet will ship next month, and will be bolstered later this year with another round of enhancements.
It's been just over a year since Microsoft and SAP introduced Mendocino, a plan that turns Office into a user interface for accessing some of the functions in the mySAP suite of ERP software. At that time, the two companies were fresh from discussions that could have resulted in a merger that would have created an IT powerhouse the likes of which the world hasn't seen since IBM introduced the mainframe decades ago.
While the companies (correctly) concluded their excess baggage would have doomed the merger (hey, even Sonny and Cher didn't last forever), they also realized the power of leveraging their comparative strengths in an allied effort. As a team, Microsoft takes the leads in developing user interfaces, while SAP holds the reins for managing back-end businesses processes and data. The companies say Duet will increase user adoption, help enforce compliance, and decrease training costs to virtually nil--all worthy goals, if they can pull them off.
In its first iteration, Duet will focus on streamlining access to mySAP's back-office functions, such as time and attendance, budgeting, and human resources. Each function provided by Duet is referred to as a "scenario" by SAP and Microsoft. For example, in one scenario, instead of navigating mySAP's time management functions, users can enter this information using the familiar Outlook calendar. At this point, Duet will focus on office-related chores, as opposed to the mySAP suite's many other functions, such as helping to manage warehouses or track goods in a supply chain, although integration with SAP's supplier relationship management (SRM) applications is planned.
Duet's second chorus, expected during the second half of this year, will be delivered via two "value packs" that will expand language support, connect with more mySAP applications, and support Office 2007 (due later this year) and upcoming versions of mySAP. The packs will also bring five new scenarios for using Office with the mySAP ERP suite, as well as its SRM and CRM add-on modules, including new ways to manage recruitment, travel, purchasing, sales activity, and new ways of analyzing data. The value packs will also support a wider range of languages, including English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese. The first release only supports English.
More than 100 companies were early adopters of Duet, including Atmel, a San Jose, California, manufacturer of microcontrollers, radio frequency (RF), and other electronic components. Atmel used Duet's budget-monitoring scenario support to improve the capability of its office staff around the world to access the same data. "Duet brings together our Microsoft and SAP environments in a seamless manner . . . from a widely used and familiar user interface," said Mikes Sisois, an Amtel vice president and its CIO. He added that the software "enables smarter decision making, and in turn, higher productivity."
Duet installs in three places: on the Exchange server, the client PC, and the mySAP server. On the client, the software requires Office 2003 Professional Enterprise Edition Service Pack 1 (SP1) running on Windows XP SP2. On the ERP side, the software requires mySAP ERP 2004 SP10 and several add-ons, including the SAP ESA, the SAP Mendocino ABAP, the Mendocino Java Add-On for the SAP GUI 6.40, as well as the SAP NetWeaver 04 Java Web Application Server SP15 or higher. The Duet server component installs next to Exchange Server 2003, and requires a server with at least two 3 Ghz processors, 2 GB of memory, and 20 GB of hard disk. SAP's NetWeaver and GUI software also must run on the Duet server.
Duet will be showcased at the upcoming user group conference, sponsored by the independent Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG), which begins May 14 in Orlando, Florida. It will also be the focus of a 13-day road show by SAP and Microsoft, which starts June 13.
The product will be marketed, sold, and supported by both Microsoft and SAP. For more information, check out the new Duet Web site at www.duet.com.