SAP looks to better serve information workers

SAP aims to give users entry points into its CRM and ERP apps through various interfaces, devices

SAP plans to release more software this year to make it easier for users to access its back-end applications including ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) products.

The vendor has dubbed 2007 "the year of the information worker," according to Dennis Moore, SAP's general manager of emerging solutions. SAP intends to continue its recent focus on presenting users with a variety of entry points into its applications through different user interfaces and via mobile devices, voice recognition and electronic forms.

Duet, SAP's first jointly developed product with Microsoft, released in June 2006, is the entry point that continues to garner the most attention. The Duet integration software lets users access data and processes from SAP's applications via Microsoft's front-end desktop Office suite. The software includes integration capabilities around different business scenarios such as time, leave and organization management.

When SAP and Microsoft ship Duet 1.5 in the summer, the companies will also release development tools so that third parties such as systems integrators and independent software vendors can customize and build on top of the Duet-enabled scenarios, Moore said. For instance, an expert in nongovernmental organization procurement, which has its own particular rules and regulations, could build on top of the Duet procurement scenario.

SAP has already rolled out the tools internally from Moore's team to its CRM, ERP, supply chain management, and supply relationship management operations. "As Henning [Kagermann, SAP's CEO] says, 'We like to drink our own champagne,'" Moore said.

The vendor will look to offer vertical Duet scenarios for those industries in which it has plenty of in-depth knowledge such as the financial and retail sectors, while relying on third parties to deliver scenarios in areas where it has less expertise.

Other companies offer or are readying their own tie-ups between ERP information and front-end software. IBM has its Project Harmony initiative linking its Notes and Workplace software with SAP's applications while Oracle is expected to announce tighter links between its enterprise applications and Microsoft's Office later this month at a New York launch event.

Moore expects that Microsoft will work on further integration between Office and its Dynamics ERP and CRM families. At present, he doesn't see much conflict between SAP's mySAP products and Dynamics. "We generally don't serve the same market," Moore said. "There is some overlap with Business One and All-in-One."

Business One is SAP's offering for small businesses, while All-in-One is aimed at the midmarket, both areas where Microsoft's Dynamics has an established presence. "We expect vigorous competition where we compete," Moore said, adding that SAP is working by itself on integration between Business One and Office.

On the cards may be BlackBerry and Windows Mobile implementations of Duet, but Microsoft and SAP have yet to commit to such releases. Definitely upcoming is support for Microsoft's Office 2007 and a version of Duet for All-in-One, Moore said.

SAP has just released the latest version of All-in-One, its first product to feature a new user interface called NetWeaver Business Client, formerly known as Project Muse. SAP worked on Muse with design partner Adobe Systems' Macromedia unit. The plan is to roll out NetWeaver Business Client across SAP's range of software to give users a simplified interface to the applications. "We don't intend to phase out other interfaces including SAP GUI," Moore said.

The vendor is also readying its Enterprise Search product for release in the first half of this year, Moore said, as another access point for users who'll first initiate searches as a way to enter SAP applications.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.