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SPECIAL REPORT: Duet Team Readies Next Releases

by Microsoft and SAP

August 11, 2009

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

Since introducing Duet last year, SAP and Microsoft have been fielding fast and furious requests from users for new scenarios, expanded functionality, and languages, surprising for technology that has been in general release for less than a year. Now, the Duet team is not only talking upgrade, but it has committed to several new versions.

Although Duet integrates SAP’s application stack with Microsoft Office desktop applications, such as Outlook, Excel, and Word, it is a product separate from each company’s offerings. The Duet team is preparing its first upgrade, called Duet 1.5, which will ship in Q4 of 2007. On top of that, at SAPPHIRE in April, SAP and Microsoft announced they would ship Duet 2.0 tentatively in late 2008 and Duet 3.0 after the release of the next generation of SAP Business Suite applications and Microsoft Office.

“Duet 1.5 is a real step forward in terms of functionality and enterprise readiness, although it’s not a complete upgrade with all the usual hassles,” says Udo Waibel, SAP senior VP of emerging solutions. “We’re staying with the same [SAP] NetWeaver base, so it’s more like applying support packages than doing a complete upgrade.”

SAP and Microsoft announced the partnership in April 2005 under the code name Mendocino. “Both companies were committed, we had a long list of great product features and customer input, but we still needed to prove that we could execute,” Waibel says. “We have been able, over the last two years, to go from the drawing board to a product” — a remarkable achievement from a software development perspective, “especially if you realize we had to integrate two different software stacks and make the look and feel seamless for end users.”

Duet 1.0 has been in general release for only a few months, and already more than 250 customers have purchased more than 400,000 licenses. Of those, 50 implementations are underway and some customers have gone online. One customer was able to implement Duet in just two weeks. “That’s not a general guideline, but it can be done,” Waibel says.

The Duet team, however, wanted to make implementation easier. So, at SAPPHIRE in April, SAP, Microsoft, and HP announced the Duet appliance, the official name being “Duet by SAP and Microsoft, powered by HP.”

The Duet Roadmap

Duet Appliance

“It’s an appliance with preinstalled Duet software, preconfigured with everything you need to run Duet from a server perspective, shipped ready to plug in to a customer environment,” Waibel says. Customers who already have SAP ERP 2004 or above, or SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI) 3.5 or above, and Microsoft Office 2003 on their clients can install and deploy Duet in relatively short order.

The way the Duet appliance works, once a customer connects the box to its environment, the appliance runs a configuration wizard. Within the wizard the customer defines which SAP systems, Microsoft Exchange systems, and Active Directory Server it wishes to use. The wizard also guides the customer through the process of selecting which scenarios it wishes to activate. Once this is done, the Duet appliance server identifies the metadata required for the selected scenarios and pushes it to all the connected clients, enabling them to run these scenarios. “The beauty of Duet is that the Microsoft Office add-on for the client is a runtime environment able to dynamically enhance the existing Office application through provided metadata from the server, which defines how the application looks and behaves on the client,” Waibel says.

Adding Value Packs

The announcement of the Duet appliance comes on the heels of the general release of several new scenarios, called “value packs.” In its initial release, Duet supported these four common business scenarios:

  • Time Management

  • Leave Management

  • Budget Management

  • Organizational Management

In March, Duet released two value packs containing the following new scenarios:

  • Travel Management: Make trip requests including air/hotel/car bookings directly through Outlook while facilitating compliance with approvals and corporate travel policies. This includes expense-approval workflow within Outlook.

  • Report and Analytics: Access scheduled and ad hoc reports through Outlook and Excel, and drill down to key performance metrics through personalized views. This allows pushing any data from SAP into Outlook, including real-time reports from ERP and queries from SAP NetWeaver BI.

    An example of a detailed budget report screen

  • Sales Management: Manage key account activities including contacts and appointments, request approvals, and access sales reports through Outlook. This function has contact management functionality so sales and marketing synchronize Outlook with addresses in the SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

    An example of a sales management screen showing account details

  • Demand Planning: Access demand plans from Excel, analyze plans offline, and upload revised plans from Excel into the SAP Supply Chain Management (SCM) demand-planning module.

Duet 1.5 Enhancements

Duet 1.5 further enhances its functionality in Q4 of 2007. Duet 1.5 upgrades several key areas of functionality. For one, Duet 1.5 expands the number of languages supported. “We started with English only and then added five more languages — German, French, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese — in the value pack,” Waibel says. Duet 1.5 will support up to 20 languages.

  • Purchasing Management: Realize faster approval cycles and reduced operating costs through fully compliant purchase-order notifications, routing, and approvals within Outlook.

  • Recruitment Management: Collaboratively schedule interviews with job candidates, capture feedback about each candidate, and generate rankings to automate the selection of the best-qualified person for a position.

  • Legal Contract Authoring: Effectively create legal supplier contracts using Word, providing collaboration, workflow, and template support for the complete sourcing process with SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SRM).

    An example of a legal contract authoring screen

Duet 1.5 also adds support for Microsoft Office 2007 utilizing new user-interface capabilities to further enhance end-user adoption. There will also be several new scenarios, including broadened functionality in sales management, legal contracts, and recruitment management.

According to Waibel, one area that continues to generate considerable interest is reporting with Duet. “With the current reporting functionality, customers basically can distribute any information from an SAP system in a user-friendly way to any end users.” Duet 1.5 will continue to expand upon that, allowing personalization of reports, he says.

Another area is approvals. “For example, many customers have a shopping-cart approval system within their SRM system,” Waibel explains. “If users want to purchase a desk or a new computer, they go to SRM, order the item, and then go to the workflow to route the request to whoever is responsible for the cost center and budget. Duet enables the complete purchasing-approval cycle through your Outlook Inbox, making it as easy as a meeting-request acceptance.”

“In Duet 1.5, we generalize this scenario to be applicable to all workflow approvals,” Waibel says. The new release will offer a scenario template, called the “Duet workflow,” which allows customers to take any workflow within the SAP system and translate it to the Outlook environment through a set of configuration steps.

For a simple approve/reject workflow, for example, the user gets a request that looks like an Outlook meeting request. “You can accept or reject any workflow activity in Duet, just as you can a meeting request in Outlook,” Waibel says, complete with the same buttons at the top of the email and all context-relevant information about the item for approval.

Looking Ahead

In Duet 2.0 and 3.0, SAP and Microsoft announced enhanced and new business scenarios for sales and SCM, including extended capabilities to enable salespeople to better manage leads and opportunities within SAP CRM. There will be enhanced capabilities for purchasing and legal contract management, and new scenarios for governance, risk, and compliance.

Duet 2.0 will expand the development tools introduced as scenario templates, delivering templates for alerts and events. In Duet 3.0 a full set of development tools based on SAP NetWeaver and Microsoft’s SharePoint Server will enable customers to create and further customize scenarios.

By continuing to combine the power and functionality of SAP with the ease-of-use of Microsoft’s desktop applications, “It’s an opportunity to reach out to new users within the organization and establish new service levels,” Waibel says.

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