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Duet: SAP customers see success, challenges ahead

SAP customers like what they see in the Microsoft-SAP Duet software, but some say it isn't ready for prime time, according to a recent survey from AMR Research Inc.

SAP customers with some hands-on experience of the Microsoft-SAP Duet software are reporting positive results, but many say the software needs to mature before it's ready for deployment across the enterprise, according to a recent survey from Boston-based AMR Research Inc.

The spirit of the effort to extend the SAP business processes to the desktop with helpful tools is what does appeal to customers, and they want to be able to do this.
Jim Murphy,
research directorAMR Research Inc.

Out of 210 U.S.-based SAP customers in the retail and manufacturing sectors, 74 were knowledgeable enough with Duet to field detailed interviews, according to AMR. Overall, respondents realized a lot of value out of improving end-user productivity while choosing SAP and Microsoft as long-term partners.

Some SAP customers – 27 out of 74 survey respondents – had reservations about adopting Duet, however. Some cited the need to upgrade to the latest version of SAP, some saw substantial hidden costs, and others were using IBM's Lotus Notes for groupware processes.

"Some customers are worried because they can put a lot of time and money into something like Duet and it could fail down the line, and SAP would decide not to support it anymore," said Jim Murphy, a senior analyst at AMR Research. "The spirit of the effort to extend the SAP business processes to the desktop with helpful tools is what does appeal to customers, and they want to be able to do this."

At best, about 29% of customers surveyed have the software and hardware requirements in place for specific Duet scenarios, Murphy said. Currently, the software supports time, leave and organization management, and budget monitoring. Value packs with additional scenarios -- including travel and sales activity management -- and analytics are due out by the end of the year.

"For many customers, the baseline requirements are covered, but there is some obscurity with certain scenarios," Murphy said.

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. Some scenarios require additional SAP tools, such as Employee Self Service, mySAP CRM 4.0 and mySAP SRM 5.0, and SAP NetWeaver BW 3.5.

Customers are also ready for a development environment to create custom scenarios, according to Murphy. Some custom scenarios would include project and production management, integration with IBM Lotus applications, and SAP Portal and financial planning and budgeting.

SAP's Kevin Fliess, vice president of emerging solutions, said that a custom development environment for users and independent software vendors will be released.

"It is part of the Duet 2.0 roadmap, and we realize that the tools component is a key piece of that strategy," Fliess said in a recent interview.

Duet is seen as valuable by many SAP customers, but only 11% of survey respondents said they would upgrade for the sake of Duet. About 60% said they were more likely to buy the software from an SAP sales representative than from a Microsoft one.

"Many SAP customers are undertaking consolidation projects, globalization business, master data management, and if you're a CIO with all those huge fish to fry, Duet looks like eye candy, but it can be disruptive," Murphy said. "Many are asking how it compromises their architecture. If they're a Java shop, now Microsoft wants to be inextricably connected to the enterprise."

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