I attended an interesting session on Duet Enterprise, which connects SAP and SharePoint, at the European SharePoint Conference in Berlin last week. My company Questionmark is an SAP and Microsoft partner, we have no financial interest in Duet Enterprise; but I blog on both SAP (in SCN) and on SharePoint (here) and am interested in a link between the two and so thought I’d share an overview perspective.
Why should SAP users care about SharePoint?
Microsoft SharePoint is a system that lets you build collaborative websites easily. It’s a great place for teams, within and outside companies, to collaborate together, share documents, communicate and learn. SharePoint 2010, the newest version, has a much stronger user interface than previous versions of SharePoint, and is getting very wide adoption. 80% of Fortune 500 companies use SharePoint and it’s one of Microsoft’s fastest growing applications with 125 million users worldwide.
Why should SharePoint users care about SAP?
Readers of this blog are likely to be able to answer this question as well as me, but we all know that many of the best run companies use SAP, ranging from Apple using it to run the iTunes music store to De Beers using it to run diamond mines, with every kind of business in between.
For many organizations, HR, manufacturing and/or finance will run on SAP, but every employee in the organization may not have access to SAP software or training to use it. There are many SAP-specific ways of doing this, including using HANA to expose business intelligence throughout the organization, but SharePoint offers an interesting route, given that so many enterprises use SharePoint for other purposes. If SharePoint is used to access the data, then SharePoint users don’t need to learn the SAP user interface.
Are Microsoft and SAP competitors or partners?
Both competitors and partners – “co-opetitor”s as they say.
SAP even say on their investment page: “What are the largest competitors of SAP? Our main competitors are Microsoft and Oracle.” Microsoft also rate SAP as a competitor, but probably see Google, Apple and Oracle as larger threats to their global business.
Although there are areas where they fiercely compete, Microsoft and SAP have a history of co-operation, they seem to have lots of interest in cooperating in Duet, and it seems honestly backed by both companies.
What’s the point of Duet Enterprise?
Imagine you are a company with SAP driving some of your key processes. But not everyone in the company has access to SAP software? And you don’t want to give everyone the SAP user interface, either due to cost or training reasons. Then if you are using SharePoint – you can consider giving access via SharePoint. This is particularly useful for casual users – your power users may want to use SAP, but those who just need access once a week might prefer SharePoint.
What are typical use cases?
The main use cases seem to be:
- Allow SharePoint users to participate in SAP workflows (e.g. approve invoices or vacation requests)
- Access SAP reports from within SharePoint, e.g. get a report out of SAP sent to your SharePoint document library every week
- Get SAP HR information into SharePoint’s “My Site” profile systems
- Access SAP data via SharePoint, whilst still using SAP’s security controls
- Move documents from SAP to SharePoint or from SharePoint to SAP
- Making it easier/faster to develop custom interfaces than by coding directly to both platforms
Strengths of the integration
- Runs on servers only, no extra software needed on the client.
- Probably supportable into the future, SAP and Microsoft will be expected to make whatever you do in Duet Enterprise viable in future versions. This is the supported route to connect the two products.
- Supports the SAP security model. So that even SharePoint administrators (who have full access within the SharePoint security model) will only be able to see SAP data that they have permission for.
- Lets you view SAP data through the very flexible SharePoint lists.
- SharePoint has very close links with Office 2010, so once in SharePoint, easy to view and modify with Office.
- Although many applications will need coding, some applications possible out of the box with just configuration and code-free approaches.
- Development can use existing SAP ABAP or Microsoft .NET approaches.
Things to be aware of with the integration
- Duet Enterprise is chargeable, so you have to pay for it on top of your other SAP and SharePoint costs and install it on top of your SAP and SharePoint Server installations.
- It’s relatively new, only being launched earlier in 2011, and my guess is that only 100 or so companies are deploying it so far, so there could be teething issues.
- It won’t work with all SAP systems, for example there is no interface to the SAP OnDemand systems.
- You need SAP NetWeaver 7.02 or higher.(Though if you have this, you can access any generation of SAP applications from SAP R/3 upwards.)
- You need SharePoint 2010 Enterprise (the most expensive and powerful version of SharePoint).
- A lot of SAP data is hierarchical whereas the standard SharePoint list is flat, so there is a likelihood of flattening/simplifying data when you view it in SharePoint.
- Doesn’t support all use cases for integration, check it will meet yours.
Microsoft and SAP have obviously invested heavily in the integration, and if you’re using both SAP Netweaver and SharePoint in your organization, it looks a very interesting solution. For more information, see SAP and Microsoft’s joint site at http://www.duet.com or see SAP’s take on Duet here or Microsoft’s take here. It’s also worth reading Gartner’s report on Duet Enterprise, which you can read (free with registration) on the SAP site.