Zoho Office for Sharepoint: Use SaaS, Keep Data Behind the Firewall

One of the major roadblocks to SaaS providers’ entry to the enterprise is  IT and Business concerns about corporate security, thinking of the firewall as the last line of defense. 

Microsoft SharePoint has a very strong position in the Enterprise as the incumbents behind-the-firewall collaboration server, and for years smart Collaboration and Social Software vendors with better functionality, like Atlassian, Socialtext, Jive Software, Newsgator  have been "playing well", adopting their services to SharePoint.

Now Zoho joins, announcing Zoho Office for Microsoft SharePoint, which combines the benefits of a collaborative SaaS Suite with the (perceived or real?) security if keeping data behind the firewall.

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Gmail’s Undo Send Isn’t Really Undo, Just Like Multiple Inboxes Were Not Really Multiple Inboxes

First of all, I love Gmail, it’s my one-and-only email system.  And I’m certainly glad to see the ever accelerating rate of enhancements, whether “official” or just the Labs variety.  But oh, please, can we have some control here and call features what they really are?

First there was the multiple inboxes announcement.  Nice. Except that it wasn’t. Multiple inboxes, that is. Think about it: that would defy logic – unless we’re talking about handling multiple email accounts, which is clearly not the case with Gmail.  This feature is multi-pane viewing – no more, no less.

Today we’re getting another new feature: Undo Send. Except that it really isn’t. Undo Send, that is.

Undo Send is what Outlook has offered for ages: you can actually recall a message that had already been sent, provided the recipient has not opened it yet, and you’re both on Exchange.  What Gmail offers now is a momentary delay of 5 seconds, during which you may just realize you’re emailing the wrong Smith or Brown, and hit the panic Undo button. It’s not really undo, since the message was never sent in the first place – Gmail was holding it for 5 seconds, if you had enabled this option.

Of course, as just about all TechCrunch commenters note, 5 seconds is not enough, the delay might as well be configurable.  Something like this:

Oh, I forgot.  It’s from that other Web-mail system (the one that actually has multiple inboxes, too).

UpdateMG Siegler over @ VentureBeat agrees this is not real  unsend,  and he remembers AOL had a real unsend/recall feature, just like the Exchange theme I described above.

Update #2:  Oh, please… per Wired, Google already plans configurability, but all you get to pick is 5 or 10 seconds.

Related posts:


Life After Outlook: Gmail. But is it Becoming Oopsmail?

Bernard’s title @ ReadWriteWeb, Breaking Free of Outlook perfectly matches my own sentiment: in fact I called the MS Client Outlook-prison repeatedly.

Unlike Bernard, I escaped from prison in stages:

I’ve never looked back, and am definitely more productive than in my desktop-bound life.  I could see first-hand a lot of people move in the same direction: my How to Import All Your Archive Email Into Gmail guide become an all-time classic, probably approaching 100,000 hits by now.  Gmail’s IMAP support changed everything, so I issued a  Simplified Guide to Importing All Your Archive Email Into Gmail.  A while later Google woke up, and started to offer a migration tool to subscribers of the paid Google Apps version. (Oh, and they are being sued by LimitNone, who claims Google basically stole their gMove product).

But the love-affair with Gmail was not without trouble: I first documented some glitches last spring: Gmail, I Love You – Don’t Let Me Down, then real trouble started a month ort so ago.

Formerly rock-solid Gmail has been ill a lot lately.  The “Oops…the system encountered a problem (#500) – Retrying in 1:30” error message has became a daily occurance… in fact several times a day.

I somewhat jokingly called “retry now” Gmail’s Penalty Button, when I noticed every time I hit it the wait counter increased by a minute.

Now I have an update: you don’t need the penalty button, the counter increases by itself.  Every time, “reliably”. Basically as soon as you see the Oops error, you might as well close the browser tab (or browser itself), as it won’t recover on its own.  This annoying  error has become the most frequent “feature” of Gmail, to the extent that it really undermines productivity.

I hope Google will fix it.  They MUST.  It’s the crown jewel of Google Apps. In fact without Gmail and Calendar there wouldn’t be Google Apps at all.

Update:  Oops: apparently there’s a real service by the name of Oopsmail.  Obviously I am not referrring to them in the title. (Although… ? 🙂 )

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SAP Duet Video

Having seen it at SAPPHIRE 06, I wrote about the importance of Duet for both SAP and Microsoft: “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.”

Jason Wood posted an insightful, analytical article on his blog with screenprints and all the bells and whistles.

Now there is an online video showing several scenarios. Use the pull-down menu to select the different tracks available.


SAP Without SAP – Duet

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.