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SAP, Microsoft Duet chosen by highway commission

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission purchased 1,100 licenses of Duet, which links SAP back-end systems with Microsoft front-end Office products, as part of a two-year, $58 million system overhaul and mySAP Business Suite implementation.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will implement Duet as part of a $36.5 million mySAP Business Suite implementation.

Duet is a hugely popular topic and customers would like to see it work, but I don't see a lot of customers saying that it's an enterprise-wide product yet.
Jim Murphy,
research directorAMR Research Inc.

Duet, which was jointly developed by Microsoft and SAP, links SAP back-end systems with Microsoft front-end Office products. The state commission, which is undergoing a massive $58 million system-wide overhaul, purchased a Duet license for about 1,100 employees and plans to deploy Duet as part of a second phase of the project at the end of 2007.

The commission added Duet during license negotiations with SAP Public Services for the mySAP Business Suite, according to Jeff Mesaric, the commission's chief information officer.

The Duet software has some prerequisites. Companies using Duet need to be running mySAP ERP 2004, NetWeaver and Microsoft Exchange Server, and Windows Server 2003. Specific Duet scenarios also carry prerequisites.

"We're fortunate that we don't have to make an infrastructure investment, since we're already a Microsoft shop," Mesaric said.

The commission is likely to have a "fairly fast deployment exercise," of Duet, said Kevin Fliess, SAP's vice president of product marketing for emerging solutions.

"We're talking weeks or a couple of months as opposed to a customer not using SAP or some other groupware application," Fliess said.

But questions remain over how committed SAP is to Duet, according to Jim Murphy, a research director at Boston-based AMR Research Inc. Although the initial scenarios – time, leave and organization management, and budget monitoring -- are interesting and useful across the enterprise, Murphy said, customers want to be able to customize Duet, a feature that SAP and Microsoft say they are still developing.

"Duet is a hugely popular topic and customers would like to see it work, but I don't see a lot of customers saying that it's an enterprise-wide product yet," Murphy said.

Further clouding the issue is the variety of new interfaces exposed to SAP customers in recent months, Murphy said. SAP has a relationship with Adobe that enables SAP customers to use Adobe Macromedia Flex software to create more robust Web-based analytical applications. SAP also recently unveiled the early results of its Project Muse, which combines Duet, Adobe Flex, Adobe Interactive Forms, and SAP Portal features into a new SAP interface.

"Customers are trying to figure out what is the real long-term strategy for SAP and which ones they need to invest their time and energy into," Murphy said. "Meanwhile, SAP says [it] will make the transition for you, and eventually the SAP Portal will employ these technologies."

The decision to use Duet was easy for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission because it will be in the middle of an enterprise-wide deployment of mySAP ERP. Mesaric said the commission will scrap its 25-year-old homegrown system using integrator services from Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Ciber Inc. The $36.5 million price tag includes software and employee training.

The turnpike commission's 2,300 employees began to see that the current software couldn't handle the growing financial reporting requirements. Decision support and materials management at the commission, which oversees a 532-mile stretch of toll highway, is cumbersome under the old system, Mesaric said.

The commission has been working with Ciber to develop a step-by-step plan as it rolls out the software across its units. The commission's operations are spread out across Pennsylvania, Mesaric said, so the phased rollout will begin addressing expense voucher processing, accounts receivables, and initial data entry for employees.

"We're not coming into this blind," he said. "We are heavily into blueprinting and staging the implementation of mySAP ERP 2005 across a 30-month period."

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