SAP and Microsoft’s deal to deliver software that integrates the ubiquitous Office suite of desktop software with SAP’s ERP software could erase one of the weakest links in SAP’s package (or any enterprise software package, for that matter): the user interface. It’s hard to justify putting an extra, expensive application on employees’ desktops if they only use it occasionally. But a link through Excel or Outlook would give enterprise applications broader reach and reduce complexity for users. SAP and Microsoft haven’t announced the price of the software, called Mendocino, yet, but one would have to assume they will price it lower than a seat of mySAP (of course, you need to be on the latest releases of SAP and Office to get Mendocino). It raises the importance of Office, which has run out of new functionality and makes it more of a focal point for front-to-back integration—and, one would assume, for selling Microsoft’s .NET architecture. The functionality offered by Mendocino will be basic at first, but eventually it could move into the more important supply chain and financial processes, enabling SAP to become the core of an event-driven architecture, at least theoretically. The idea is to use Outlook as a mechanism for transmitting event alerts (say a stock shortage in the warehouse) through an e-mail to the responsible person, and then allow that person to do something about it in the e-mail that would then link back directly into the SAP system. “Event resolution is going to be a principal tenet [of the Mendocino development] at least in near to mid term,” says Kevin Fliess, SAP’s vice president of product marketing for emerging solutions.
How valuable is this really? How hard is it to link ERP to e-mail today? Will this make a strategic difference in acceptance/usage of ERP in your organizations? Tell me.
CIOs have been telling me for years that frustrated/resistant employees often use Excel spreadsheets to run their businesses outside of the ERP package because they don’t like using ERP. I wonder whether better links between Excel and ERP will help or hurt this situation. Will a tighter link between Excel and ERP also make a difference in acceptance/usage of ERP, or will there always be “rogue” spreadsheets out there running the business disconnected from the system of record? Please give me your thoughts and experiences.