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SAP Without SAP – Duet

(Updated)
More than a decade ago as Project Manager implementing SAP solutions I could not understand why the Client’s PM showed absolutely no interest in getting SAP-trained, or even attempting to log on to the SAP system. The only software product he ever touched was email. Years passed, and as I climbed the ladder, I found myself in a similar situation: locked in to Office products most of the time – just like millions of corporate employees whose daily life does not involve actively conducting transactions in their Enterprise system (SAP). They need to occasionally review/approve an item or react to an exception alert though. They are the (often management-level) employees who will not directly use SAP, even though timely access to SAP data is critical to their decision-making process – or to somebody else’s daily job.

Thanks to Duet they can now have the SAP data at their fingerprints without touching SAP itself. The long-awaited (and often promised ) SAP-Microsoft Office integration has finally arrived.

What was announced at last years’s SAPPHIRE in Europe as the Mendocino Project became a product, the second preview of which was released a week before SAPPHIRE 06 under the name Duet. Considering Microsoft’s role, just having a friendly name is a major achievement itself – it could have been something as friendly as Microsoft Office Extension to mySAP ERP 2004, Enterprise Version, Release 1.0. (read Microsoft Uber-Blogger Robert Scoble on product naming…)

I’ve seen a presentation of some of the current features as well as the roadmap for the next year, and also had a chance to sit down with Dennis Moore, GM of Emerging Solutions, who provided the blogger group with additonal insight.

Currently Duet (which is a boxed product) supports MS Office 2003 and mySAP ERP 2004, and there are 4 business scenarios available:

  • Leave Management
  • Time Management
  • Organization Management
  • Budget Monitoring

The final release is due in June 06 and will soon be followed by two value packs.

Value Pack 1 is due in Q3 06, new scenarios will include recruitment and travel management, enhanced analytics and support for mySAP ERP 2005, the current platform which, per Shai Aggassi will stay for years to come.

Value Pack 2 is expected in Q4 06 with some line of business functionality becoming available, e.g. Sales contacts, activity, Purchasing. MS Office 2007 will be supported.

It’s important to clarify that Office will not become the primary user interface of the “transactional worker”, i.e. you will not be creating product masters, running a shop-floor, etc. What Duet is, is a natural fit for a workflow (think of roles, limits ..etc) -based processing of messages and underlying data triggered by events, rules and exceptions.

Duet’s importance by far exceeds what the limited number of currently available scenarios might imply: for SAP it means potentially tripling / quadrapling their user base, even if indirectly, and for Microsoft it’s another way to lock users into their Office suite.
Duet is a step in SAP’s declared strategy of opening up access to their data and processes via a number of user interfaces, including Office, Portal, Mobile devices ..etc. It also fits in the “Sap Simplified” philosophy of owning the Business Processes and letting go of the user experience.

I tend to disagree with AMR’s concern on the large number of prerequisites: mySAP ERP 2004 or 2005, MS Office, Exchange server, and specific applications for some scenarios, e.g. E-Recruiting 6.0 for Recruitment Management, mySAP SRM 5.0 for purchasing management and CRM 4.0 for sales activity management. Yes, these are prerequisites, but the point is that even though Duet is a boxed shrink-wrapped (thanks for the comment!) product (I’ve seen a white box at SAPPHIRE, whether real or mock-up), it is not expected to sell as a standalone product on it’s own merits. It will expand access to additional users within corporate customers already using both SAP and Microsoft products, i.e. likely to already have the prerequisites.

Talk about prerequisites, pricing for Duet, and specifically the underlying SAP access will be an interesting challenge, since SAP’s model is typically charging $$$$ a smaller user base, while MS relies on $ from a large number of users – there has to be a model in between.

Not everyone in Microsoft welcomes Duet: the folks at MS Dynamics are clearly unhappy. They even produced a so-called White Paper comparing Duet to their own solution, Snap. “So-called”, because it does not even attempt to be unbiased. It praises Dynamics and Snap, while listing the dry facts about Duet, completely forgetting the fact that as Enterprise systems Dynamics and SAP are really apples and oranges… or I should say Ford vs. Rolls Royce.

IBM isn’t sleeping either: IBM to sing in Harmony with SAP to match Duet. IBM’s Harmony, which I haven’t had a chance to see, claims to play a similar role with Lotus Notes. It clearly is a competitive product, as far as Duet (which is jointly owned by MS and SAP) is concerned – but from SAP’s point of view, it’s just one more user interface, exposing more knowledge workers to SAP. The more the merrier.

Related blog posts:

Update (5/23) : Fellow SAPPHIRE blogger and SAP/MSFT investor Jason Wood posted a very detailed, thorough analysis on his blog – with screen prints and all the bells and whistles. Oh, and Jason – here’s my pick for a famous duo whose duet (pun intended) had an impact on the world. Update (5/30): Here’s an entire new blog dedicated to Duet (well, actually discussing Duet while promoting a 3rd-party solution). Thanks, Vinnie for pointing it out.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    It is not boxed software, It is called shrink wrapped software.

  2. Anonymous says:

    After all these years, things have’nt really changed, Zoli. The only application that management types use is still only e-mail. For junior management levels, it is predominantly Excel and e-mail.

    Connecting up Office with back-end applications is smart. But connecting up Office with only SAP is not. Most business users interact with multiple data sources in a daily work-day. Office needs to grow its roots beyond a single data source, and be available across mutliple data sources, and for all types of information, nut just boxed, shrink wrapped SAP transactions.

    - Sangeeta Patni,

    Extensio Software, Inc.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Zoli – you are dramatically underestimating the infrastructure implications on both the SAP and MS side to support Duet – it could be a huge impediment to acceptance and a big hidden cost.

  4. Google is so Generous to me

    I have no clue how on earth my little post became the second hit Google brings up on a “Duet SAP” search, but I am certainly not complaining. The first one is Microsoft, then comes yours truly, followed by the Gartner group (hey, InformationWeek was ri…

  5. i saw this news on the ticker tape on skynews last night (20thmarch) but no coverage this morning even on the internet yours is the first story rapidshare

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  1. [...] triggered by events to those users who might not even touch their systems?  SAP tried it half a decade ago with Duet… but it was a half-hearted effort that did not take off big time.  But now as the number of [...]

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