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Project Mendocino: Power Users, Analysts — Now SAP for the Rest of Us

by Evan J. Albright

August 11, 2009

First, it was SAP for power users and business analysts. Now, through Project Mendocino, a joint venture between SAP and Microsoft, SAP is available to the rest of us, as well. And — the best part — it’s as simple as using Microsoft Office.

With Project Mendocino, two titans of the software industry — Microsoft and SAP — join hands to create a product that brings the SAP platform to the desktop. It is so simple and so intuitive to use, it could dramatically change the way their shared customers tap into enterprise information and processes. Project Mendocino unifies the SAP and Microsoft Office end-user experience so users don’t have to leave the comfortable confines of desktop applications such as Outlook and Excel to access SAP-based processes. Microsoft Outlook users, for example, receive exception alerts from SAP back-end applications, and from those alerts, directly access SAP systems to take action to resolve those exceptions. Microsoft Excel-based budget activities draw from and are automatically synchronized with data in SAP systems.

“Most users will never even know they are leveraging the SAP ERP system,” says Carlos Chou, SAP senior vice president of Project Mendocino, and therein lies the key benefit. Project Mendocino (a code name — the solution will assume its official name later this year) creates a seamless continuum between enterprise and desktop productivity applications. The systems are no longer disconnected.

Version 1.0 of Project Mendocino connects the following four functional areas (see “Project Mendocino Functionality” for more detail):

  • Time management — Users can employ their Outlook Calendar to record and track billable project time.

  • Leave management — Users can enlist their Outlook Calendar to schedule leave requests, and the approval workflow can all be contained in Microsoft Exchange.

  • Budget monitoring — Users can configure Outlook using Project Mendocino to alert them via email should a change in financial conditions affect a budget. Within that email users can directly access the actual business processes to resolve the budget issue.

  • Organization management — Users can employ contacts in Outlook to retrieve up-to-date information about employees, open positions, and organizational structures.
Project Mendocino Functionality
The initial version of Project Mendocino enhances four specific business-process areas: time management, leave management, budget monitoring, and organization management.
Business Process Area Definition Tasks
Time Management One of the most cumbersome tasks is transferring information from an electronic personal calendar to a company timesheet or accounting form. With Project Mendocino’s time management capability, information collected in Microsoft Outlook Calendar can be directly fed into mySAP ERP.
  • When planning meetings in Outlook Calendar, users are prompted as to whether a meeting is for a billable purpose, and are given a list of billing accounts.

  • If workflow requires manager approval of a billable meeting, the manager would be alerted in Outlook and, in turn, could approve or reject the request in the same email.

  • Users would see links to relevant statistics such as total billable hours, as well as links to company policies or procedures related to time management.
Leave Management Planning time off from work usually requires users to jump from one calendar to another, creating a paper chain that can leave one calendar or another out of synch.
  • Employees can file their leave requests in their Outlook Calendar, and the system will automatically forward it to the appropriate approval authority for review.

  • Project Mendocino will provide context for 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.
Budget Monitoring Tracking budgets and acting upon changes in status is one of the most powerful features for managers in Project Mendocino.
  • Users can configure Project Mendocino to send reports from SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI) on a scheduled basis to their Microsoft Outlook inbox. The report template can be sent to others in the company, and the data populated based upon their roles in SAP.

  • Users can configure Project Mendocino so that they will receive alerts related to changes in the status of a specific budget or budgets. These alerts can also come with preconfigured reports to provide needed context from which the user can make a decision.

  • From the very same alert, the manager can initiate a budget transfer or other adjustment.

  • Administrative users can define existing reports in mySAP ERP and make them available for distribution via Outlook to end users based on their roles.
Organization Management The organization management, although not a replacement for Manager Self-Service, will make many common HR tasks possible via Microsoft Outlook.
  • Connects Outlook contacts with the mySAP ERP Human Capital Management (HCM) system and makes HCM information available based on a user’s role. The type of information can include compensation and lines of authority.

  • Through the same view in Outlook, the user can access organizational charts and have access to other related HCM data. Links to personnel files will also be visible, again based on the user’s role.

  • Managers will be able to make personnel-change requests, ask for spot bonuses, and put email related to a specific employee into the respective personnel file through the Outlook interface.

“Our goal with Mendocino was to avoid having a separate user experience where you’d have to Alt-Tab between the two. Instead, we are putting tasks that are part of the SAP business processes right into Microsoft Outlook,” says Lewis Levin, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Office Business Applications Group. Adds Levin, “We’re talking about some very focused, practical activities that a large percentage of the employee base does with great frequency.”

SAP’s Chou points to budget management as an example. “A lot of business users attend to budgeting activities in Microsoft Excel,” he says. “It’s intuitive.” Within Project Mendocino, Excel-based activities are automatically synchronized with the back-end SAP system. Beyond the simplicity this affords users, it has tremendous implications on the compliance front, Chou says. “If you eliminate cutting and pasting, eliminate double and triple entry, and have all employees working from one consistent data platform, then you dramatically reduce the risk of non-compliance.” It’s much easier for a CFO to ensure internal control and audit activities with broader employee participation when business processes are standardized on one common platform.

More Efficiency, Less Inconsistency, and Access for All

Microsoft Office is where employees spend much of their time. That is as true at SAP as anywhere else. Ken Hamel, SAP senior vice president of Solutions Engineering, heads up a large services organization for SAP Americas, where sales engineers have traditionally tracked their time in both Outlook and SAP. Says Hamel, “These types of professionals work in Microsoft all day long. Appointments are set up through the Calendar, and the very same details are re-entered into a separate system to account for their time. With Mendocino, that redundacy is eliminated. Time recording can all be done in Outlook.” (See the sample Project Mendocino screen for an example of this time-capture capability.)

This screen shows a sample Project Mendocino tool for time capture in Microsoft Outlook. The items on the Calendar can be reported directly into time capture for SAP, with drop-down menus for financial codes. On the right is the Project Mendocino action pane, which in this case includes relevant statistics regarding the proportion of time spent on business activities.

“In addition to increasing the efficiency of these engineers, my ability to track and understand their engagements increases as well,” adds Hamel. “All of us were eager to use Mendocino. It was clear to me from the start that alignment of the user experience and corporate business application platform would increase the engineers’ productivity and the decision support processes I rely upon. It stands to reason that corporate data becomes more accurate and also more timely. When there is no end-user reluctance to using the system, all the data that should be captured is captured, directly from the source.”

“Better decision support is a key benefit. We’re providing the business user with more accurate, timely, and consistent information and at the same time ensuring compliance, since there is just one data source serving enterprise and desktop applications,” says Chou. This brings users closer to the “one truth” Holy Grail, and does so in a manner that is as convenient as it is auditable.

What about information workers who traditionally do not work with SAP systems? They will instinctively know how to use Mendocino. Notes Hamel, “Users don’t have to learn different keystrokes or menus to access information across the enterprise. Employees, who in the past found it difficult to find and navigate HR forms, for instance, could request vacation time and leave from their Outlook Calendar. The necessary approvals and interactions with payroll systems would take place automatically.”

SAP is setting its sights on non-SAP customers as well. (Today, some 400 million people use Microsoft Office.) “Project Mendocino resonates not only with existing customers, but with our potential customers,” says Chou. Late last year a large pharmaceutical company that had been running a non-SAP ERP solution and myriad other systems and platforms elected to scrap its existing landscape, replace it with Microsoft/SAP, and use Mendocino to bridge the two.

The Biggest Barrier to Innovation

Changes, upgrades, and the introduction of innovative new business processes generally collide with a host of organizational change management challenges. User training and adoption are universal challenges that plague the best of project teams, and many innovative measures fail or don’t realize their potential because the organization’s natural resistance to change proved too strong. “Mendocino will reduce change management that historically comes with the introduction of new applications and processes,” says Hamel. “The Microsoft experience is something that is familiar to millions of users worldwide. With Mendocino, we can deploy new business functions and applications very quickly. User training and adoption are no longer formidable obstacles.”

The end game, says Chou, is faster, less painful, innovation. “How do I keep my company agile? How do I rapidly deploy changes to respond to market changes? Better usability, easier usability, will reduce the bumps in the road that frequently impair innovation.”

Project Mendocino — By the Numbers

Of the 60 million information workers employed by companies that run SAP, 15 million actively use the SAP systems. SAP believes that the usability provided by Project Mendocino will enable growth within the remaining 45 million potential users in SAP’s customer base alone.


By adding the market universe of Microsoft Office products estimated at 400 million users worldwide through Project Mendocino, there is tremendous growth opportunity for SAP.

(Source: SAP)




SAP has announced its goal to grow the number of licensed companies from 36,000 to 150,000 by the end of 2010. A significant element toward enabling that strategy is Project Mendocino.

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