SAP's and Microsoft's Duet glue

Companies spend billions of dollars creating enterprise portals and integrating applications. With Duet for Microsoft Office and SAP software, some of that customization is no longer needed. Duet lets users access SAP applications from within an Office environment.

"It provides off-the- shelf integration between productivity/office suite tools and CRM and ERP enterprise applications, which obviates the need for custom integration by IT," says Mark Levitt, an analyst at IDC.

Formerly called Mendocino, Duet is a collaboration between Microsoft and SAP. According to Dennis Moore, executive vice president and general manager of emerging solutions at SAP, customers of both companies had been requesting better interoperability between the vendors' product lines.

"Customers wanted the ease and familiarity of their Office environment and yet wanted the ability to access and use the robust, secure business processes from the SAP back-end systems," says Moore. "As Web services and SOA became integrated features of both companies' product lines, the feasibility of providing contextual business information from SAP within Office 2003 increased, and the idea of Duet was born."

Development began in 2003, with teams in five locations and a full complement of architects, software developers, quality assurance and test engineers, implementation consultants, technical writers and product managers. The developers started by brainstorming ways to integrate Office and SAP. Customers were then contacted to validate the concepts and find areas for improvement.

Microsoft and SAP then set out separately to develop their contributions to the whole, but a significant amount of coordination via written communication and virtual and in-person meetings was required throughout the process.

The product was initially released to 100 partners and key customers, with broad release scheduled for this summer.

The first version includes four key business scenarios. For example, employees can record their hours in their Outlook calendar. The Outlook calendar entry then triggers an approval action in the SAP time management tool so the employee doesn't have to separately input the data in both locations. Similarly, people can request time off using Outlook's meeting request feature, and the approval is processed based on the business rules set up in SAP. The Outlook mailbox is also linked to the SAP budget management process. Two releases due out later this year will provide business scenarios in ERP, CRM, supplier relationship management and business intelligence software from SAP.

Levitt says Duet will help companies give employees who primarily use office productivity software an easier way to access SAP ERP or CRM software but adds that the product wouldn't entice a company to adopt SAP applications.

"Companies without SAP ERP or CRM would not likely be inclined to buy those SAP applications just to use Duet," says Levitt.

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