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SAP and IBM to bring SAP workflows to Lotus Notes

SAP and IBM will jointly develop software that allows business users to access SAP Business Suite applications through Lotus Notes.

SAP and IBM Monday announced plans to develop their first joint software product.

Dubbed "Atlantic," the first version is slated for release in the fourth quarter of 2008 and will allow access to SAP workflows, reporting and analytics, and user roles from Lotus Notes, according to an SAP statement.

"The product is bringing SAP processes and data from the SAP Business Suite into the Lotus Notes environment," Byron Banks, senior director of information worker marketing for SAP, said in an interview.

To business users, Atlantic will look and feel like Lotus Notes. Initially, the product will support the SAP business processes that fit the Lotus Notes model best -- tasks like calendaring and email, for example -- and incorporate them into the Notes interface.

"The intent is to make use of [the Lotus Notes user interface] that information workers use. This is not a product designed to go after the traditional SAP power user," Banks said. "This product is designed for the two-thirds of the company that probably doesn't have access to the SAP business suite."

To many, Atlantic will sound similar to another SAP joint venture -- Duet.

"Atlantic is the next logical step in SAP's [evolving plan] to support a wide range of partners. Atlantic is to Lotus as Mendocino [now named Duet] was to Microsoft," said Ray Wang, a principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "SAP's ecosystem is about being an agnostic partner and giving customers more choice."

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In 2005, Microsoft and SAP announced a similar joint venture that would allow business users to access SAP data and processes through Microsoft Office. It was codenamed Mendocino before being branded as Duet in May 2006. While details about Duet and customer successes have been somewhat slow in coming, at Sapphire 2007 the companies offered a long-term roadmap for the product, and attendees expressed growing interest.

"[Atlantic] is definitely targeted at the same audience [as Duet]," Banks said. "From a technology point, we're going to build and use the Lotus Notes tools that have that long history of building composite applications, so we think there's a lot there that's unique to Lotus Notes that we're going to leverage. But it's definitely solving the same problem [as Duet]."

Customer feedback will be weighted heavily in determining the product's future capabilities, according to Banks, who added that sales management and CRM integration are "natural fits."

"Our initial Duet release was fairly small and fairly focused around HR, and very quickly evolved into adding supply chain, CRM [customer relationship management], and SRM [supplier relationship management] integration," Banks said. "So I wouldn't be surprised if we followed a similar trajectory with this project."

SAP and IBM have approximately 13,000 joint customers, and Lotus Notes counts more than 140 million users, so Atlantic is entering a large potential market, according to Banks.

The software will be sold by both SAP and IBM, and Banks anticipates that many customers will customize Atlantic to fit their model or industry. IBM Global Business Services will play a big services role, he said, but other systems integrators will also be able to customize Atlantic software.

"As big as IBM Global Services is, they can't do it all, and quite frankly the IBM and Lotus people don't want Global Services doing it all, either," Banks said. "There [are] regional players; there's industry expertise that even IBM doesn't have."

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