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SAP Duet to meet IBM Harmony project

IBM executives say SAP customers can get more integration features with Lotus Notes at a cheaper price than they can with SAP Duet.

SAP integration features in Lotus Notes offer more robust functionality and similar scenarios as Duet software, according to IBM executives touting the company's Harmony initiative.

IBM launched Project Harmony in May, shortly after SAP and Microsoft announced their jointly developed Duet tool. Duet links SAP back-end systems with Microsoft front-end Office products to conduct human resources (HR) tasks, time management, budgeting and analytical report distribution.

The first releases from Project Harmony included IBM Lotus Notes Access for SAP and IBM Lotus Workplace for SAP Software. IBM Lotus Notes Access for SAP launched with connections for time reporting, contact management and vacation and leave requests. Lotus Workplace contains configurable connectors that companies can use to create role-based composite applications that incorporate SAP data.

In September, IBM launched employee self service and meeting scheduling features in Lotus Notes, allowing users to tap into SAP back-end systems through the familiar Lotus client.

"The mere fact that Microsoft wants to get into the enterprise and show they can work with enterprise-level applications is a marketing design point," said Larry Bowden, vice president of IBM Workplace Composite Products. "Lotus has been integrating with SAP for years."

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IBM has been taking a more centralized approach to make its Lotus install base more portal-like and less dependent on desktop software, said Jim Murphy, a research director at Boston-based AMR Research Inc. Murphy recently released a study showing a strong interest in Duet amidst SAP's customer base but a need for more information as well.

"The software [IBM] offered customers five years ago is not dissimilar to what Microsoft is going to be offering in the next five or six years," Murphy said. "I'd say that's valid. They just haven't packaged it."

Bowden said a common misconception is that Lotus users must purchase IBM WebSphere to run the Lotus Client. Lotus works with the same functionality of Duet using NetWeaver, he said.

The Lotus Notes integration kit for SAP comes with adapters and templates to connect to SAP applications. Lotus customers don't have to upgrade their SAP systems to use the integration functionality, Bowden said.

"There are no new prerequisites," he said. "We're providing the same thing that Duet is giving, but from a Notes client and at a significant cost savings."

Companies choosing 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.

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