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Duet: Special Report

Duet, the jointly developed SAP-Microsoft product formerly known as "Mendocino," is unveiled. Get the basic information you need to know about it here.

Duet, the jointly developed SAP-Microsoft product formerly known as "Mendocino," was released this summer to a wide audience. Since then, Duet has generated a tremendous amount of user interest and analyst buzz. Some camps sing its praises, calling it the fruit of many years of harmonious coexistence and collaboration. Others are less impressed and complain that the product's technical requirements are too high and the cost is prohibitive for smaller companies.

IBM has been quick to point out that its Harmony project offers many of the same benefits as Duet. And some phalanges of Microsoft, notably the MS Dynamics team, have taken jabs at the company's new golden child. Still, Duet is smoking hot, and this overview will provide a quick snapshot of the reasons why.

The idea behind Duet is to marry the familiarity and user-friendliness of the MS Office front with the scope and power of SAP in the back. In essence, Duet lets users tap into and take on many simple, administrative tasks such as time management and budget monitoring without having to dive into the complexity of SAP. This makes user training a snap, cutting time and cost compared to traditional SAP user training.

As a rule, the bigger the organization and the more of these small administrative tasks that need to be done, the more mileage a company will get from Duet. Duet can help make information more readily available across multiple departments. Because any updates made to information by department A are instantly reflected on the SAP back end, employees in department B can have the most recent information on their screens when they access the same data less than five minutes later -- no more lag in matching up the data.

Duet is designed for rapid implementation. SAP spokesman Kevin Fliess admits it can be a long runway for a customer starting from scratch, but many of the intended users are already running most of the required components, he says.

Duet 1.0, the current version of Duet (released June 2006)
The first version of Duet is somewhat limited in scope in that it only snaps into MS Outlook and covers a mere four users scenarios. These scenarios are:

  • Time Management: lets workers report time spent on projects, clients etc. directly from the Outlook calendar. This makes accounting, billing and compliance quick and easy. Workers enter this data directly rather than have it passed through an additional set of hands with potential for human error and lag time.

  • Leave Management: allows workers to request days off using the all-day function in Outlook. The workers can assign what type of leave they're requesting (vacation, sickness etc.) while instantly getting an update on current vacation day balances and the like. The request is then sent to the approving manager, who in turn approves or rejects the request in Outlook. If approved, the vacation day balance is updated automatically.

  • Budget Monitoring: streamlines the SAP reporting tasks so that each user can get customized reports delivered to Outlook at suitable intervals. This allows users to get frequent, at-a-glance updates with the ability to quickly drill down if an item needs further attention.

  • Organization Management: helps keep everyone on the same page in the organization. Users can see who reports where, open positions, new additions, team composition updates and so forth.
Value Pack 1 (end of 2006)
Rather than releasing a Duet 2.0 in the near future, SAP plans to roll out a series of value packs that will gradually add functionality to the product. Among other things, Duet will no longer be limited to only MS Outlook but will snap into most parts of the MS Office suite. In fact, the upcoming version of Office is said to have the "plumbing" in place to optimize Duet usage, further underscoring Microsoft's commitment to the product.

The first value pack is expected out in late 2006 and will add three new scenarios:

  • Travel Management: ensures that itineraries are lined up with travel policies and approval structures. Among the benefits, it enables a manager to quickly review and suggest possible options, consult the travel budget and approve/reject the travel request on the spot.

  • Recruitment Management: makes scheduling of interviews, candidate tracking and information sharing easier as the recruitment process moves through the different stages.

  • Reports and Analytics: taps the power of MS Excel to let managers run ad-hoc reports with complete visibility. The analytics dashboards allows for further management aid in making the correct decisions.
Value Pack 2 (2007)
The next value pack is going to tap into the aforementioned "plumbing" of the next generation Office suite. Although no firm date is set and a lot can (and probably will) change, some new scenarios that should be included are:
  • Purchasing Management: marries MS Office with the power of mySAP Supplier Relationship Management (SRM). The order cycle is sped up while the buyer manager can instantly check purchasing analytics and approve or reject the order.

  • Sales Management: similar to the Purchasing Management feature in that it helps speed up the sales cycle by tapping the power of mySAP CRM.
Duet requires that you're up to speed on your SAP updates. You need mySAP ERP 2004, NetWeaver, Microsoft Exchange Server and Windows Server 2003. Voices of concern have been raised regarding this relatively high barrier of entry, notably AMR Research's Jim Murphy and Jim Shepherd. Others, particularly in the blog space, are less worried. Go to SAP and Microsoft's site for a complete rundown of the minimum specs and judge for yourself.

The current cost is set to $125 per desktop. No volume discounts are announced at this point. Talk to your local SAP or Microsoft rep for more details if you're interested in learning more about Duet.

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