Orlando - The annual ritual that is SAP's annual Sapphire conference, combined for the first time with the annual user group conference, drew a reported 15,000 to Orlando this week. Amid the spate of announcements - general availability of the latest SAP ERP system; a new business unit dedicated for compliance, a SRM acquisition (Frictionless Commerce), a $125 million product development fund with NetWeaver application partners - a good bit of attention was devoted to Duet, a two-week old arrangement combining SAP application end points and Microsoft Office productivity tools. Though SAP added no new release to the earlier announcement and Microsoft had a very small presence at Sapphire, the subject of Duet came up in every keynote address and press event during the first two days of the conference.

Duet - which one analyst called a "business mashup" of Office products and SAP information and processes - and has been offered as a way to bring budget monitoring and reporting, travel management and organization/recruitment files from SAP to a zero-footprint desktop. But technically, the possibilities are far greater than that.

SAP Americas CEO Bill McDermott brought this up early in his opening keynote and pursued the thought with stage guest Bob DeRodes, EVP and CIO at Home Depot. DeRodes said the new platform offers "great potential" and that Home Depot, as an early adopter, hoped to influence its evolution as a product for competitive advantage. DeRodes said "huge" productivity implications await for report generation and the way transactions are considered. "In most corporations there are two worlds, the enterprise application users - the people who run the business every day and interact tightly with the applications - and the Office users," he said. "We have invested a lot in enterprise systems and also invested a lot in Microsoft. We are thinking about opening this up and bringing the two worlds together."

Looking ahead, DeRodes is already considering maintenance and stocking information that could be pushed from SAP to action items through Office. For example, all of maintenance logs for all the tools Home Depot rents reside in SAP. DeRoda sees a day when inanimate objects could make their needs known. "It would be nice if a chainsaw could send an email saying it's ready to be sharpened." Even simpler, an alert could point a local store or distribution center worker to a stock-out on shelves.

For the data and BI crowd, SAP Executive Board Member Shai Agassi said Duet gives new meaning to the overworked "BI for the masses" mantra. "This kind of ubiquitous access coupled with our [newly announced] BI accelerator gives us something that is very powerful." Agassi hastened to point out SAP's separate relationship with Adobe that addresses data distribution by role and process.

As it applies to processes, Roman Bukary, VP of solution marketing for analytics at SAP, Duet will help blur the line between data-centric views and document-centric views of processes. "I can take a report or analytic information and distribute it to my colleagues. I can in my kick off or terminate processes in my xApps [SAP composite applications] from my zero-footprint client into the back end SAP system. Am I able today to do human to human ad hoc process mitigation, documentation or administration? Not exactly. But am I building the right infrastructure to move in that direction? Absolutely."

Though it's unlikely that Duet would ever become the workplace for a SAP power user, Bukary said "SAP is moving out of the world of the guru and becoming consumable to the hundreds of millions of people who inhabit enterprises."

"It's not Duet per se," he said. "It's what it signifies for SAP."

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access