Microsoft and SAP will start selling the software that bridges their key applications next month, promising customers and partners a new era of accessibility to enterprise data.
However, while the companies are working together jointly selling and marketing the software, they won’t say yet what the price will be.
Called Duet, it allows Microsoft Outlook to be used as a front end to peer into mySAP, the complex enterprise resource management (ERP) application that large companies and governments use to run their operations.
“There are a lot of business processes that anybody in an organization needs to participate in on a day-to-day basis,” said Elizabeth Caley, a senior product manager for Microsoft Canada. “We’re trying to take those that are accomplished in SAP and make it so that an end user can do them without a lot of training and support.
Anuj Batra, SAP Canada’s national lead for emerging solutions, said the advantages for users will be “superior decision-making because of better synchronization” between mySAP and Office.
One SAP-Microsoft partner already working on an early version of the software is Montreal’s Nakisa Inc., whose Web-based application lets users create organization charts and diagrams from SAP data.
“For us, (Duet) is an exciting opportunity,” said John Payes, director of Nakisa’s Microsoft partnership.
The first release of the software will include four “scenarios,” linking to SAP’s budget monitoring aimed mainly at general users covering time management, leave management and organization management functions.
Later in the year two value packs will be available for purchase aimed at business managers covering recruitment management, travel management, analytics, purchasing management and sales activity management.
Duet will work only with Microsoft Office 2003 and up, and with mySAP ERP and mySAP CRM.
Both companies will offer first and second-line support.
Industry analysts say most SAP users are senior executives or back office experts, but it hopes that by giving front office employees the chance to access SAP data through Office the number of users will leap dramatically. Microsoft would gain by extending the value of its lucrative Office suite.
Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, said he’s looking at “massive market adoption” for Duet, while Shai Agassi, president of SAP’s product and technology group, said the potential market is “huge.
“We have the potential to grow four-fold the number of (SAP) end-users,” Agassi said.
However, in an interview Gartner analyst Yvonne Genovese cautioned that many users will want more industry-specific scenarios than the two companies had already announced.
“It think it (Duet) will have a slow start because of that,” she said.
mySAP customers have a choice of buying Duet either through their SAP account representative or as packaged software through a Microsoft channel, via a software reseller or a systems integrator. However, both partners insist installation won’t be hard.
Microsoft has already started working with a select number of system integrators in Canada who sell both SAP and Office to push both products by leveraging the Duet link. There are fewer than 10 now, Caley said.