Microsoft Tools Snap Into Office

Taking lessons learned from its joint "Mendocino" development project with SAP in-house, Microsoft announced on Feb. 20 its namesake Dynamics Snap initiative.

Taking lessons learned from its joint "Mendocino" development project with SAP in-house, Microsoft announced on Feb. 20 its namesake Dynamics Snap initiative. The initiative consists of components culled from Microsofts Dynamics enterprise resource planning software that can be snapped into Office and used from that environment.

Mendocino, due this year, looks to tie SAPs ERP process in to Microsofts Office and Outlook. Similarly, Dynamics Snap brings in functionality from Microsofts own Dynamics (CRM 3.0 and AX 3.0, in this case) into Office.

The result, Microsoft says, should be twofold: Business users dont have to go back and forth between environments to input base-level data and developers can build on the software to fit vertical needs or to build composite applications.

While the functionality of the initial Snap applications is similar to Mendocino—both have time- and vacation-tracking capabilities—Snap differs in that it provides what Microsoft officials, based in Redmond, Wash., refer to as "in-context data lookup" in Office programs such as Word and Excel.

Snap is also a Shared Source initiative, so ISVs, partners and customers can build out or customize functionality. The first four Snap programs are available now as free downloads from Microsofts .Net community Web site. The source code is available under Microsofts Permissive License deal to ISVs, customers and partners.

The Snap applications available include Timesheet Management Snap-In and Vacation Management Snap-In for Dynamics AX 3.0 and Business Data Lookup Snap-In for both Dynamics AX 3.0 and CRM 3.0. Timesheet Management Snap-In does pretty much what its name suggests: It links Dynamics AX time entries with Outlook appointments and meetings, automatically filling in the data and tracking changes.

Likewise, Vacation Management Snap-In lets AX 3.0 users submit vacation requests through Outlook. A submission triggers an e-mail message to whoever approves the request, and that person can view the requesters vacation history and approve or deny the request.

The Business Data Lookup Snap-Ins for AX and CRM let users search and browse data using Word, Excel and Outlook, copying data back and forth between the programs and Outlook or attached to ERP.

The snap-ins are a continuation of Microsofts Dynamics strategy that will by 2008, company officials said, bring together the companys four disparate ERP packages and its CRM (customer relationship management) suite under a single code base.

The snap-in components are part of Microsofts effort to design business applications that are based on the way people work.

"This wave of applications ... is definitely a part of our larger strategy of empowering information workers," Satya Nadella, corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions Group, said in a statement. "We will continue to make strides in providing innovation in the realm of connected systems that bridge the unstructured world of human processes with the structured world of business applications."

Microsoft said it plans to ship additional Snap applications with future Dynamics and 2007 Microsoft Office system releases.