Microsoft, SAP aim to ease users

Microsoft and SAP AG have teamed to work on a new product that will aim to make the task of processing and analyzing the latter company’s data easier for information workers.

Code-named Mendocino (after a California town midway between Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash. and SAP’s office in Palo Alto, Calif.), the offering will focus on connecting such SAP’s functionality as time management, budget monitoring, organizational management and travel and expense management directly into the Microsoft Office environment, giving users a consistent environment from which to work.

The resulting improved ease of use will result in knowledge workers spending more time on tasks they should be focused on, according to Mike Bulmer, product manager, Microsoft Office System at Mississauga, Ont.-based Microsoft Canada.

“We know from our studies that it is unproductive for end users to leave a Word or an Excel document they’re in to fire up a browser, go run a search, get some information, cut and paste – that’s not what you pay your CFO for, to move information around. You pay them to do analysis. So if that information can appear there for them where they need it, that’s really what it’s all about for the end users,” Bulmer said.

The Mendocino announcement was made April 26 at SAP’s Sapphire conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The product will also go a long way to enhancing the interactions between end users and IT departments, Bulmer added.

“The ability to go and get that information and pull it forward, it makes that nice juxtaposition between IT and end user. End users talk about documents and IT talks about data, and there’s really no difference. End users consume their data inside a document and IT like to think about moving that data around, so those two things go hand in hand.”

Other advantages the two companies claimed organizations will enjoy include: avoiding wasted time and effort searching for information across multiple, different environments; eliminating duplication of effort; and lessening the amount of staff training time required.

“There was the manual data re-entry, an endless search for up-to-date information, inconsistent information between the two (Microsoft and SAP) applications, and this really led to sub-optimal decision-making,” said Anuj Batra, NetWeaver Solution Principal for SAP Canada. “So what we’re doing here, by creating this joint solution, is to enhance productivity, audit tracability for things like compliance, and provide this through a familiar and flexible interface.”

According to a Microsoft release about the new offering, information workers will “be able to utilize extended application menus and select process options and information in the SAP-specific smart panel, synchronize information between Microsoft Exchange Server and SAP, retrieve SAP information in Microsoft Excel and submit data via Microsoft Office InfoPath forms.”

Mendocino will be rolled out to select customers in the fourth quarter of 2005. A date for general availability has not been set, although Batra said it should “follow shortly after the end of this year.”

In choosing who those select customers would be, Batra added, the two vendors “analyzed those existing, mutual customers between SAP and Microsoft that had those particular pain points and challenges and those were the ones we worked with across a variety of industries to come up with the best customers to take this to market with first.”

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