SNAP: It’s looksoftware’s Office GUI for ERP on i
April 8, 2008 Alex Woodie
Last week at the COMMON conference in Nashville, Tennessee, looksoftware gave a formal name, SNAP, to its solution that allows users to access ERP applications running on i (formerly i5/OS and OS/400) servers from the comfort of their favorite graphical productivity tools, such as Office or Google. The first SNAP solution will soon be available for Microsoft Office and SharePoint Server, with support for Lotus Notes and WebSphere Portal expected in the future.
For years, Australia-based looksoftware has been chasing the application modernization business on the popular 64-bit server known before Wednesday as the System i. The company’s group of tools, collectively known as the Dynamic Environment, enable users to accomplish a range of modernization chores, including refacing 5250 screens with HTML, building composite apps, creating smart client interfaces, eliminating interactive CPW usage, enabling offline access, and creating Web services.
And about 11 months ago, the company announced it was following in the footsteps of the “Duet” Office interface project between Microsoft and SAP by enabling customers to access any RPG- or COBOL-based application from the comfort of the Outlook e-mail program or using Google’s Gadgets interface.
That project was formally christened SNAP at last week’s COMMON gathering, a name that pays homage to the Dynamic ‘Snap-Ins’ that Microsoft delivered more than two years ago. The first SNAP offerings will support Office 2007 and SharePoint Server, Microsoft’s portal environment, and will be delivered in June 2008, the company says.
The SNAP products will allow users to access their Web-enabled ERP screens (primarily JD Edwards and BPCS) from the comfort of their e-mail client or portal interface. Outlook users are able to switch between their e-mail or calendar views and their ERP screens with the click of a mouse, and full functionality of the ERP program (including support for workflows) is maintained. With Office 07, looksoftware even enables access to Microsoft’s “ribbon” interface for accomplishing other tasks.
Following the release of SNAPs for Outlook and SharePoint in June, looksoftware will deliver additional SNAPs for Google Gadgets, Lotus Notes, and WebSphere Portal, according to Marcus Dee, managing director of looksoftware.
The company is also working on supporting additional back-end applications with its SNAP programs. JD Edwards and BPCS are the most popular ERP applications, so looksoftware has them ready out of the box. But it’s not a big deal to support other RPG or COBOL applications, Dee says.
One deal has Agilysys, developer of the i-based Materials Management System (MMS) that is used by MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, the Venetian, and 80 percent of the casinos on the Las Vegas strip, developing a SNAP component to give customers access to MMS from Office. “Around 70 percent of users of MMS actually spent most of their day in Microsoft Outlook,” says Arjen Verkerk of Agilysys, “so providing MMS integration with Office means our customers can cut costs through streamlined workflows.”
While SNAP for Office is not yet available, it has been given a workout at beta sites, including adidas Korea. “Our end users are very happy with the improved user experience and additional functionality,” says B.H. Lee, team leader of the company’s IT department. “They love the seamless integration with Microsoft Office, and now think the System i is wonderful!”