BOSTON—SAP AG gave a sneak peek of Mendocino, the product that will merge Microsoft Corp.s Office environment with SAPs enterprise resource planning applications, at the companys Sapphire user conference here on Thursday.
During his morning keynote, Shai Agassi, an SAP executive board member now in charge of the companys technology development, displayed an Outlook in-box that had been tied directly to SAP applications, including human resources, embedded analytics, supply chain monitoring and more.
The Mendocino project is “working to connect ad hoc events with the backbone of the business,” Agassi said. “Outlook is the ball and chain that keeps us going all day, and SAP is behind the scenes [in Mendocino].”
In the demonstration, Agassi clicked on a sample e-mail that lauded one of his employees, “Joe.” To store that information in a personnel file, he clicked on a drop-down menu to add the kudos-carrying e-mail to Joes file in the human resources system.
From there, Agassi clicked to bring up Joes profile, complete with his photograph, information on his salary, the ratio of what his salary is compared with other employees and the results of Joes year-end review.
Using a task bar, Agassi then pulled contextual information from SAP applications to see what funds were in his employee compensation budget, including what percentage is available to spend, thanks to embedded analytics on team compensation.
“I can go directly from the Outlook context,” Agassi said. “I want to give him a bonus. Lets say well give him an extra $5,000 and say, Great job!”
Upon Agassis clicking to issue the bonus, the combined Office/SAP prototype then returned to the back-office system and discovered the amount was over a company-authorized cap on discretionary spending, thus flagging the user that hed need approval for the amount.
“Its all in the familiar environment of Outlook,” Agassi said.
Agassi listed other tie-ins between SAP and Microsoft Office technology, including a supply chain monitor that will send alerts via e-mail to flag, for example, when a manufacturer will run out of fuel in a matter of days.
Mendocino will send the e-mail alert, list common resolutions, point to reports the user might need to know about, and allow the user to then directly go in and manage the necessary resources by adding vendors, checking sources and/or checking availability, for example.
Its all indicative of how “analytics is everywhere,” for the masses, in upcoming SAP products, Agassi said. Reports will come in to Outlook in-boxes, available in HTML and other formats that users can then subscribe to on a user-specified basis—say, four times a day or monthly. Such reports will also be available to forward to colleagues or partners.
The reports will be connected to the back-end system, Agassi said, so any changes made to the reports in the Outlook environment wont have to be rekeyed in a separate application.
Other functionality will include enhanced calendar capabilities that will be useful for those who have to track their billable time, Agassi said. Because calendar information will be in the form of Outlook objects, it will also be sortable, thus presenting the potential to see various overviews of completed activities.
This early look at Mendocino, due out by years end, was a hit with both analysts and showgoers.
“As a user, my goal is to have those tools that I use the most be linked to one another in ways that make me the most productive,” said Melinda-Carol Ballou, principal analyst at Ballou IT Strategies, in Bedford, Mass.
Ballou said that at this stage, Mendocino promises to provide users with “the content I need, and the ability to collaborate, so I can innovate and be adaptive in a competitive environment.”
In so doing, Mendocino is one key to helping customers figure out how users can do their jobs well, Ballou said—making both the upcoming technology and SAPs underlying ESA (Enterprise Service Architecture) a smart strategy and, most importantly, something thats real and not vaporware.
“SAP says, Well do open platform partnering with whom we have to partner, and theyre doing what they need to do,” she said. “Its not mere verbiage. It would be if we didnt have dates for when these things are coming out.”
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