Integrating SAP and Microsoft Office will cut down on time wasted switching windows and copying and pasting between different applications.
But the initial rollout of the joint product is limited to five SAP processes and may result in being locked into older Office releases, according to some industry analysts.
SAP has been touting its partnership with Microsoft, introducing the joint Mendocino project at its recent Sapphire user conference Copenhagen and again to users in Boston. Mendocino will integrate SAP with the Microsoft Office suite.
Despite 15 years of cooperation, this is the first product to come out of the SAP-Microsoft partnership.
Mendocino is a concrete step toward the service-oriented architecture-based vision SAP is touting, according to Dennis Moore, general manager of emerging solutions at SAP in Palo Alto, Calif. The marriage of enterprise applications and user productivity tools is just the kind of benefit that will result from the Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA) strategy, Moore said.
"A product like Mendocino would be very, very difficult to do without ESA," Moore said. "By service-enabling the back-end functionality of mySAP, we're now able to connect it to different types of front ends, such as Microsoft Office."
In addition, Mendocino allows regular users to jump right into the new functionality with little training. This is made possible by sticking with the familiar environment they work with every day, simply adding more options that allow them to take shortcuts.
Users can actually see right away that they're saving time by eliminating redundant clicks to open various SAP applications.
Initial opportunities, potential drawbacks
Mendocino also allows end users to access a broad set of SAP processes and SAP data directly through Microsoft Office products, such as Outlook and Excel.
This focus on employee self-service functionality opens up SAP to a lot more users and takes the load off existing power users, said Chris Caren, general manager of office business applications at Microsoft.
"You can access processes, such as submitting vacation requests, file work times for different projects to different cost centers, update and access employee HR files, pull SAP data straight into Excel and so on," Caren said. "This also helps make sure the data you work with on your desktop is in sync with the data on the server."
While mostly positive about the product, Gartner analysts Yvonne Genovese and Betsy Burton have raised concerns about Mendocino's workflow and process integration. In their research brief to customers May 2, "'Mendocino' Next Step Toward Integrated Contextual Workplace," they point out that Mendocino is somewhat limited in scope because it only enables five SAP processes.
"[Mendocino] does not, however, deliver true knowledge worker (that is, workflow or process) integration, which would require a significantly higher investment level from both parties," the analysts said.
The Gartner analysts also said the product could also result in getting locked into older Office releases.
"Customers may have to remain with the version that offers them the strongest integration," the analysts said.
While Mendocino won't integrate all SAP processes in its first release, later versions may include integration with other applications, Caren said. The first release of the product, which will be made generally available in the second half of 2006, will support Office 2003, which is Microsoft's latest version.
"Going forward, you should not expect any significant delay between a new Office release and accompanying Mendocino support," Caren said.
A small selection of SAP and Microsoft customers will receive Mendocino in late 2005. Candidates for the early release will receive an invitation. The price for this product has not been determined.
Integration complexity depends largely on the degree of software customization currently in place at an enterprise, Moore said.
"Many scenarios will work with no additional work needed," Moore said. "It should be a matter of hours to be up and running with Mendocino functionality."
To prevent implementation hiccups, SAP and Microsoft plan to have a joint support structure in place, resulting in one telephone call for help with any Mendocino headaches.