Much of the talk at the European Sapphire customer event in Copenhagen centered on the agreement between SAP AG and Microsoft Corp. to jointly develop a product that will integrate components of their respective enterprise and desktop software systems. Dennis Moore, general manager of emerging systems at SAP, has been heavily involved in the joint development project, code-named Mendocino. Moore sat down with IDG New Services to discuss what Mendocino is all about and how customers of both SAP and Microsoft will benefit.
IDGNS: Who's contributing what?
Moore: There will be code from Microsoft and code from SAP in the new product. The product will also include open interfaces so that ISVs [independent software vendors], customers and integrators can extend the work we've done.
IDGNS: What will customers find in the box?
Moore: When you buy this product, you buy software that connects to Outlook Exchange and other Office clients like Excel and Word, and that also connects to mySAP Business Suite. With this software, you will also be able to connect to other databases, servers and clients.
IDGNS: How integrated is Mendocino?
Moore: The product is not only a bridge that allows you, for instance, to synchronize your SAP and Outlook calendars; it's also the logic that figures out how that exchange of information works. Say you make an appointment in Outlook with a specific SAP task. The product knows what SAP software to invoke in Office to link from Office to the software running on the NetWeaver enterprise portal, where most of our sophisticated business software runs.
IDGNS: Aren't you concerned about losing your customer interface -- the mask users see on their computers -- by allowing them to access information and perform many functions through the Office interface?
Moore: We have a large number of SAP users. But that number is far smaller than the number of people using Office products. In many of our customers' offices, people use Outlook for e-mail, and receive copies of reports generated from SAP data without knowing that. Now, with the new product, they'll see SAP in the "smart pane," which pops up when it has something important for them from SAP, and they'll see the SAP logo in other appropriate places. Office is becoming an extensible platform on which ISVs such as SAP -- which is the first major ISV to do this -- can build software to integrate processes.
IDGNS: How will users benefit?
Moore: The Office user experience will be made more productive by bringing in processes from SAP. When you use the new technology to create a meeting with a client that may be billable, for instance, SAP will add to your appointment the accounts that you may be billing and a way how to bill these accounts so that you manage these processes only once. The system will automatically go into your time tracking, vacation, payroll and commissioning systems -- all from one Outlook form.
IDGNS: What about alerts?
Moore: We have been using Outlook for delivering alerts generated from our business information warehouse system for some time, but the process ends with delivery. Now, we'll be able to deliver an alert with enough information for users to click directly through to other business processes to resolve the problem. When they now monitor for exceptions, they'll have the ability to deliver context around those exceptions and processes to resolve them -- all once again from a convenient interface.
IDGNS: Will Mendocino end with this product or can users expect more?
Moore: Our first product will handle several business processes, such as time management, budget monitoring, organizational management and travel and expense management. Over time, we'll extend the depth of integration to other Office components and business processes.
IDGNS: What role did the agreement between SAP and Microsoft to integrate your respective NetWeaver and .Net strategic platforms play?
Moore: Without this interoperability, this product would be an extreme challenge. We would have to achieve this interoperability as a base condition before developing the product.
IDGNS: And one last question for those users who are wondering about this new partnership between SAP and Microsoft: Will the two companies also remain competitors in SMB [small and medium-size business] market?
Moore: SAP and Microsoft will compete vigorously in the SMB market. This new joint product will work with our midmarket systems and those from Microsoft.
-- IDG News Service
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