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SAP, Microsoft plan to Excel with Duet

SAP and Microsoft plan to extend Duet beyond the current Outlook integration and into Excel and Office 2007 with new value packs.

SAP and Microsoft yesterday released plans for the next stage of their Duet project, a jointly developed set of applications to integrate SAP back office data with the ubiquitous Office suite from Microsoft.

While the two technology behemoths are eyeing future integrations of SAP and Excel and the forthcoming Office 2007 suite, they were also promoting Duet's success so far. A year and a half into the project and three months since the software has been generally available, the companies have sold 200,000 seats. Analysts still advise caution in investing in the technology, however.

"Duet has potential, and the concept of extending and enhancing SAP usability through Office is very appealing," Paul Hamerman, vice president of enterprise applications with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., wrote in an email. "However, it is being heavily promoted by SAP ahead of its capabilities. It will take another one to two years to fill out a more substantive offering."

Duet roadmap

Duet has been available for purchase from SAP for about three months. The first release was English only and came with four scenarios: human resources tasks, time management, budgeting and analytical report distribution. These four scenarios integrate with Microsoft Outlook. With the success of the initial launch, the two companies are now extending beyond Outlook integration and into Excel.

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SAP and Microsoft plan to release a new value pack before the end of 2006. It will include three new scenarios: travel management, sales management and demand planning. These scenarios branch the product out to Excel. With this release, Duet will also become available in French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese. This will be the only value pack issued before Version 1.5 of the software, according to SAP.

Duet 1.5 will be released in the summer of 2007. It will contain at least two more scenarios -- one for recruitment management and one for purchasing management. The companies also hinted that more languages will be available at that time, and they could decide to include even more languages or scenarios based on user feedback. Version 1.5 will also increase support for Duet tools to configure and customize scenarios.

Office 2007 integration

Of course, the elephant in the room is Microsoft Office 2007. Sharada Achanta, senior director of solution marketing for emerging solutions for SAP, says the companies haven't seen customers holding off purchasing Duet, waiting for Office 2007. Yet SAP and Microsoft touted Office 2007's potential to enhance Duet. This is especially true of the user interface, where, according to Achanta, developments such as the ribbon feature -- which replaces the many menus and toolbars in current versions with a single strip across the top of a window -- are well suited for Duet.

Sales success

SAP and Microsoft indicated that more than 200,000 seats of Duet (still priced at $125 per seat) have been sold since the product was made generally available in late June. This represents approximately 100 companies currently using the product.

"I haven't seen any software product ramp up this fast," Achanta said.

Duet has had the most sales focus and success in large enterprises and midmarket companies up to this point. Likewise, adoption has been quickest in North America because English is the only language currently supported.

As a majority of large enterprises run both SAP and Microsoft Office, most sales so far have been into accounts that already have both products. The program has succeeded in encouraging some customers to ramp up their plans to deploy Office, according to Achanta. SAP anticipates that there may be some sales where SAP replaces other back-end enterprise software because of Duet, but this has not been a focus.

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