Last year, Auckland Regional Council became the first organisation in the world to roll out version 1.5 of Duet, a joint Microsoft and SAP product that marries back-end SAP and familiar Microsoft applications – Word, Outlook and Excel.
The project wasn’t without some problems. A service pack upgrade installed in October caused data issues. “Both SAP and Microsoft were brilliant, coming to the rescue,” says John Holley, ARC group manager of information services.
ARC has been a SAP user for 10 years, though some employees didn’t like working with the software as they had to use three different screens to manage their time.
“Duet offered a potential panacea to our problems. It just made life simple and easy,” Holley says.
“The hackles don’t go up now when we talk about doing stuff with SAP.”
Staff use Duet to manage their time — including scheduling, recording and reviewing project work and billable hours — and to manage holiday requests through Microsoft Outlook. Before Duet, employees had to log in and out of separate systems to access their calendar, time commitments and workload. They also use Duet to handle purchase orders through Excel and invoicing through Word.
Holley says it has meant a more accurate collection of data and better cost recovery from chargeable items such as consents.
The council was an early adopter of Duet 1.0 but, says Holley, it didn’t meet expectations. SAP approached the council in September 2007 about version 1.5, and implementation began that December. It took three months to roll out to 200 users.
“We were the first in the world to go live with it,” Holley says.
Duet relies on NetWeaver, so customers must be on SAP’s newest ERP release, ERP 6.0. Microsoft Office customers must be running Microsoft Office Professional 2003 or 2007, as well as those releases of Exchange Server.
In addition to leave schedules and time-sheeting scenarios run through Outlook, Duet 1.5 allows employees to manage travel through Outlook, generate purchasing agreements through Word and access more reporting and analysis through Excel.
Holley thinks Duet will help customers reduce staff costs because some staff used to be assigned solely to approving leave requests, and that work is now all managed through Outlook. But Duet has also brought an intangible benefit — confidence in SAP.
“There’s a huge benefit of staff actually appreciating SAP.”
Neither SAP nor Microsoft were prepared to discuss pricing.
Holly, however, says it cost the council about $50,000, including the implementation.
SAP and Microsoft will skip Duet 2.0 and pool that functionality into 1.5. Duet 3.0 will have more functionality around reporting and sales management, as well as time management scenarios. Its release will coincide with the next release of Microsoft Office.