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Opening SAP to Everyone: How CLP plans to empower employees and increase efficiency with Duet

by Microsoft and SAP

August 11, 2009

by Microsoft and SAP SAP NetWeaver Magazine - Volume 3, Issue 2

CLP Power Hong Kong, Hong Kong’s largest utility, wants to bring the power of SAP to every employee.

Most of CLP’s employees, like millions of information workers at companies that make up SAP’s customer base, never directly touch SAP even though their data might reside there. To record their billable hours to clients or their personal vacation time, or to see their impact on their department’s budget requires that they use specialized software or make a request to a colleague to extract certain information from back-end systems. These information workers are the last to see the improvements in business processes that an ERP system such as SAP’s can provide.

More importantly, this disconnect between SAP and information workers means the same information is being keyed and rekeyed into different systems or applications, a redundancy of effort. Also, information workers find they are not working with the latest information, increasing the possibility of errors, which would require the same work to be done over again.

Over the past few years, SAP has embarked on a crusade to make SAP information available and usable to more employees, with improved portal interfaces and user-friendly tools such as SAP Analytics. One of the most ambitious projects is to make SAP almost invisible to users by making it available to them through the Microsoft Office applications they use each day.

This is Duet.

Duet represents a unique partnership between SAP and Microsoft. Launched last spring, Duet has slowly been filtering into the customer base. One of the first to put the application to test has been CLP in Hong Kong.

CLP appears to be an ideal candidate for Duet, because most of its IT systems are either SAP or Microsoft. About one-third of CLP’s 3,500 staff members are information workers and decision-makers. The company recently upgraded to mySAP ERP 2005 and runs all its SAP applications on Microsoft SQL Server, and most, if not all, of its information workers use Office. Duet was a natural progression for its landscape, technical infrastructure, and user community, says Andre Blumberg, CLP’s Technology and Architecture Manager.

The first version of Duet has scenarios integrating SAP and Microsoft for time management, organization management, budget monitoring, and leave management. CLP is testing the budget-monitoring and leave-management scenarios (see “CLP’s Duet Scenarios, Before and After”). Within budget monitoring, users can personalize Duet to alert them via email should a change in financial conditions affect a budget, and within that email they can directly access the actual business processes to resolve the budget issue. In leave management, users can use their Microsoft Outlook Calendar to schedule leave requests, and the approval workflow can all be distributed via Microsoft Exchange and the familiar Outlook user interface.

“This is typical of management positions and senior managers that need to approve. They don’t work in the SAP system eight hours a day like someone in accounting does, or a sales clerk, a maintenance worker, or a call-center agent,” says Blumberg. “So, they’re occasional users, but they’re obviously high-profile users in the sense that they are senior people and time is money. When Duet came along, we saw a number of areas where we could benefit.”

With budget monitoring, the potential benefits are multifold. The occasional user no longer has to log onto SAP but can perform SAP tasks in Outlook. The new technology also should reduce the number of steps in the budget monitoring process, thereby saving the users time. Also, the system should provide proactive monitoring of budgets and prevention of overruns and enable notification of exceptions to the budget owner based on predefined business rules.

Likewise, the leave-management scenario also means managers can access SAP functionality through Outlook. The integration between one’s Outlook calendar and SAP will save steps and time for users and ensure consistency between the two systems.

CLP has been testing Duet in an isolated pilot environment containing mySAP ERP 2005, SAP NetWeaver 2004s, Exchange 2003, and so on. In addition, the CLP team has been testing the integration with Duet 1.0 SP 2, which was scheduled for general release in February. CLP was the first in the world to implement and test this latest version.

Once testing is complete, CLP will explore other Duet scenarios, such as Purchase Requisition Approval, Reports and Analytics, and Workflow Pattern. Apart from traditional back-office scenarios, CLP is also keen to bring Duet to the front office, such as giving account managers a more seamless integration with the mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM) system for sales and activity management.

CLP Duet user scenarios

The concept behind Duet is to make usability easier, Blumberg says. “We see a number of areas where we could benefit from that. We believe this is the next level of innovation – give the user the best user interface that he or she is most productive with.”

CLP’s Duet proof-of-concept (POC) roadmap

CLP’s Duet Scenarios, Before and After

Budget Monitoring

Tracking budgets and acting upon changes in status is one of the most powerful features for managers in Duet. With it:

  • Users can personalize Duet to subscribe, schedule, and deliver reports from SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI) to their Microsoft Outlook inbox. Blumberg likes to refer to this as flexible “push reporting.” They can then forward a template of the report to others in the company, but the data they see will only be that permitted by their predefined role in SAP.

    An example of a budget monitoring Duet window in Outlook
  • Users can personalize Duet to generate alerts related to changes in status of a specific budget or budgets (such as a warning that a particular line item is exceeding its forecast). These alerts, which automatically arrive in the user’s inbox, can also come with preconfigured reports to provide needed context so users can drill down into them and from there take remedial action.

    Example showing how a manager can drill down into a budget alert and access a window to create a budget transfer in SAP using Duet’s integration with Outlook
  • From the very same alert, the manager can initiate a budget transfer or other adjustment.

An administrator can define existing reports in mySAP ERP and make them available for distribution via Outlook to end users based on their roles.

CLP’s current workflow is to a large extent handled manually, in Microsoft Excel, and in spreadsheets that have no connection to the ERP system. Duet will streamline that.

Leave Management

Planning time off from work usually requires users to jump from one calendar to another with the potential of leaving one calendar or another out of synch. With Duet leave management:

  • Employees can file a leave request using their Outlook Calendar, which will synchronize with the SAP Human Resources (SAP HR) system and also automatically forward the request to the appropriate approval authority for review.

A leave-management panel in Duet

  • Duet can provide menus in Outlook where employees can click to open relevant, contextual documents, such as leave policies and procedures. For example, an employee requesting leave will be able to click on links related to company policies regarding leaves for marriage, bereavement, birth, and so on.

  • The workflow for review and approval will also be contained within Outlook for managers and other supervisors.

At CLP, the only way to synchronize leave information between the SAP HR Employee Self-Service (ESS) system and the Outlook Calendar is for users to do it manually.

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