SAP and Microsoft are conducting a series of forums to highlight their jointly developed Duet software, made generally available in June with additional features due out by the end of the year.
The two software vendors have been conducting a broad media campaign since the debut of Duet in May. Executives from both software vendors said Duet bolsters end-user productivity by melding data in back-end SAP systems such as sales and HR through front-end Microsoft Office applications. The result allows end-users to conduct SAP transactions, such as approving a leave request, through the familiar Microsoft Outlook interface.
The Duet forums will be held in New York, Dallas and Atlanta next week and feature a product overview as well as an analyst or customer presentation.
Although analysts have criticized early versions of Duet, formerly known as Project Mendocino, for not being robust enough, SAP and Microsoft executives say additional capabilities are being developed with the next release of Microsoft Office. Smart tags, within Microsoft Word can allow employees to edit relevant data in an SAP system. More robust XML will also result in enhanced employee self-service functionality.
A value pack due out by the end of the year will include six additional scenarios: travel management, recruiting, analytics integration, sales contacts management and procurement integration.
SAP developers are also working on extending Duet functionality to integrate with other data sources, according to Kevin Fliess, SAP's vice president of product marketing for emerging solutions. Although Fliess declined to give a timetable, data from some third party applications, such as Salesforce.com or Oracle's Siebel software may be tapped in future versions of Duet, Fliess said.
"We recognize that our customers have hybrid environments and business processes span many applications," Fliess said. "In the future we would endeavor to provide that kind of support, but it's something that I can't provide additional clarity on at this point."
About 100 customers and partners have been testing the product, which requires Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 as well as the latest version of mySAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver. The first four Duet scenarios focus on time, leave and organization management as well as budget monitoring. Additional scenarios released
While companies could deploy Duet broadly, many are choosing to start with departments, workgroups or divisions "as opposed to the big bang approach," Fliess said. Future versions of Duet will also support divisions of large enterprises that may be running mySAP All-in-one software, SAP's midmarket software package, he said.
Companies will be able to build customized scenarios in future releases, and a developer pack will enable SAP partner independent software vendors (ISVs) to build, license and sell custom scenarios. SAP has been approached by several ISVs and a toolkit would be made available early next year, Fliess said.
"It is part of the Duet 2.0 roadmap and we realize that the tools component is a key piece of that strategy," he said.
Microsoft and SAP also unveiled a Website, Duet.com, which highlights the software and contains a series of blogs by executives and developers working on the joint product.
Customers can choose to buy the software from Microsoft or SAP and in many cases they are discussing a purchase with representatives from both software vendors, Fliess said. The price of the product could differ. SAP executives are still fuzzy on pricing of Duet, but Microsoft sells the software at $125 per computer, plus an additional $125 license per server.
The two vendors operate a joint support center for the product, Fliess said.