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The “Atlantic” Crossing: SAP & IBM Join Forces to Create a Rich Collaboration Environment

by Evan J. Albright

July 1, 2008

SAP and IBM are planning for the initial release of a product that will bring SAP functionality to IBM Lotus Notes 8 users. Codenamed “Atlantic,” this offering will allow business users to access data from SAP systems directly through Lotus Notes — benefiting thousands of shared SAP and IBM Lotus customers around the world.
 
Atlantic Requirements

Currently, requirements for Atlantic include:

  • IBM Lotus Notes 8.0.1+
  • IBM Lotus Domino 8.0.1 +
  • SAP Business Suite with SAP ERP 6.0 and SAP NetWeaver BI 7.0

Note: Planned requirements are subject to change.

SAP and IBM announced their first-ever partnership to bring the power of SAP to millions of IBM Lotus Notes users in a project codenamed “Atlantic.”

The project was announced to the 7,000 attendees of Lotusphere, IBM’s annual conference, held in January 2008 in Orlando, Florida.

Much like the successful partnership between SAP and Microsoft that spawned Duet, which brings SAP functionality to users of Microsoft Outlook and Excel, Atlantic will integrate Lotus Notes software with the SAP Business Suite. The initial release is planned to ship in the fourth quarter of 2008 and will be sold by both companies.

Lotus Notes 8 software enables customers to convert their email inboxes into integrated workspaces. The software brings together email, calendar, instant messaging, productivity tools (such as Lotus Symphony), collaborative applications, and the ability to build and deploy customer business or third-party applications for help desks, customer relationship management, sales forces, discussion forums, blogs and so on.

Accessing SAP Systems Through Lotus Notes

Atlantic will allow users to access data from SAP systems through Lotus Notes, without requiring them to switch from one user interface to another. SAP and IBM are collaborating to develop several scenarios so that Atlantic users can take advantage of these SAP systems within the familiar context of the Lotus Notes desktop.

“We’re creating a richer collaboration environment,” said Michael Rhodin, general manager, IBM Lotus Software, in a prepared statement announcing the new partnership. “Businesses are looking to find better ways to collaborate and manage their business processes. This IBM-SAP solution addresses both challenges in one seamless package for millions of users.”

According to the announcement that was released, Atlantic will provide the capability to configure and customize each end user’s unique SAP environment. The solution then presents to the user the SAP system options specific to his or her role and license rights. In addition, Atlantic customers will be able to take advantage of the single sign-on capability in Lotus Notes software.

Wide Crossover Appeal

IBM and SAP have thousands of mutual customers who have been asking for the functionality that the Atlantic software will provide. In fact, the majority of IBM’s top 100 customers also use SAP solutions.

“Lotus has been an innovator in collaboration for 20 years,” said Vishal Sikka, CTO, SAP. “This agreement is a great example of how SAP enables our customers to empower their users by providing easy access to SAP business processes and data through productivity tools and user interfaces of their choice. Furthermore, it reaffirms the strong commitment we have to our partnership with IBM.”

Atlantic, according to SAP and IBM, would offer the following benefits to customers:

  • Integration of Lotus Notes collaborative capabilities with SAP-driven business processes and workflows

  • Lower end-user training costs, as millions of users are already accustomed to Lotus Notes and will be familiar with the interface of Atlantic

  • Improved decision making and, at the same time, greater business process automation across the organization

  • Rapid deployment, as Atlantic will install easily on existing SAP systems and Lotus Notes and Domino software (see the requirements above)

A Look at Atlantic

The first release of Atlantic will support SAP workflows, reporting and analytics, and the use of roles from within the Lotus Notes client. In addition, the IBM-SAP solution plans to include tools that allow Atlantic customers to extend and adapt these roles and capabilities, as well as leverage additional collaborative and offline capabilities inherent in Lotus Notes and Domino products.

This sample Atlantic scenario shows that, using the familiar interface of their Lotus Notes clients, business managers can approve employee travel requests, which in turn get saved in back-end SAP systems.

 

While the list of possible scenarios are under development have not been released yet, SAP and IBM provided a sample scenario that demonstrates the concept behind Atlantic. This sample scenario is an automated workflow for employee requests for business travel. As the sidebar below demonstrates, employees and managers can complete trip requests in the Lotus Notes interface with easy-to-follow steps:

  1. An employee creates a travel request within a Lotus Notes document.

  2. The document will then be routed to the employee’s manager or an appropriate person responsible for approving the request.

  3. Before approving the request and routing it back to the employee, the manager can run a report to view other trip requests from the department and their costs to date.

 

Sample Atlantic Scenerio: Business Travel (Under Development)

1. Employee enters a request for business travel within Lotus Notes 8.
2. Approver reviews the employee travel request.
3. Approver can view a travel budget report generated with data from SAP systems.

 

All the report’s data and analysis originates from the manager’s SAP systems, but he or she can conduct this analysis to arrive at a business decision within the familiar Lotus Notes environment. The travel costing and scheduling data, as well as approval workflow processes are seamlessly provided to the user from the corporate policies that have been implemented in the SAP Business Suite.

Crossing Over

Currently, Lotus Notes customers can access their SAP systems using Lotus Notes Access for SAP solutions (NaSs), which was introduced as a new feature of Lotus Notes 7 and integrated with SAP R/3 Release 4.6C.

Atlantic will include some of the scenarios that NaSs currently offers, but it will add the ability “to customize the existing SAP environment and add scenarios, if required,” according to the announcement. NaSs is currently available for Lotus Notes 7.x, but it will no longer be supported beginning with Lotus Notes 8.x.

According to the announcement, “there are no migration tools available,” and therefore, customers who upgrade to version 8 should plan to switch to Atlantic.

If your company requires customization of the product, IBM Global Business Services will be available to provide consulting and perform services. SAP practitioners, as well as other global and regional systems integrators, will also be ready to customize Atlantic software to meet demand.

For more information on the Atlantic project, visit www.ibm.com/software/lotus/notes/atlantic.

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