Duet combines the Microsoft Office applications with the core SAP business processes. It already offers budget monitoring, time management, leave management and organization management. Upcoming value packs and the next release, version 1.5, will feature even more functionality, such as sales management, purchasing management and more scalable business processes.
But it’s not just usability that makes Duet a success. A deeper look at Duet’s key components and architecture shows how and why Duet benefits customers.
According to Udo Waibel, senior vice president, Emerging Solutions, SAP Labs, “The Duet architecture has a trio of components and offers strategic benefits. It’s a compelling and expandable product.”
A trio of key components
Duet’s basic architecture includes a client add-on module for Microsoft Office, an SAP add-on for the SAP applications, and the Duet server, which allows deployment and communication between the two.
The client add-on has a runtime engine, a secure cache for data storage, query assembly and metadata, and an output queue. The add-on is installed on the desktop as a plug-in using standard remote tools such as Microsoft Systems Management Server. Once installed Duet scenarios are delivered automatically to users. Any subsequent scenario modifications are also delivered automatically.
For example, in Duet Organziational Management the standard scenario delivers a list of fields that display employee data in Microsoft Outlook. A modification is made in SAP to display a new field, an additional phone number. That change does not require an update on the client. When a user opens the contact form, the new field is displayed automatically.
The runtime engine interprets user-interface metadata and creates the Duet toolbars and task panes that the user sees in Microsoft Office. The secure cache allows frequently used application data, such as dropdown lists, to remain local and also using Duet scenarios in offline. To keep data current and accurate, the secure cache also triggers automatic updates via the output queue when a user comes back online.
The SAP add-on includes an engine for bundling service requests to mySAP Business Suite applications, configuration tools and a metadata repository. It has a Web-services adapter for connection to SAP applications. Its functions are consistent with the enterprise services-oriented architecture (enterprise SOA) framework of SAP NetWeaver. Enterprise SOA enables Duet to access an array of different services from SAP applications.
The add-on lets Duet deliver users’ query responses while at the same time maintaining SAP business process logic and rules. It also maintains established configuration parameters. The add-on ensures system administrators do not need to reformulate upper-level process logic.
The Duet server is the deployment and communication facilitator for the client and its SAP applications. It is made up of a runtime metadata repository, a module to format and route information to Microsoft Exchange Server, and a deployment module for delivering updates to client systems.
The runtime metadata repository contains the data that describes the application user interface. It also contains the configuration and routing information for each Duet role. This component helps make Duet scalable because it off-loads processing that otherwise would have to be handled by Microsoft Exchange Server.
The module for formatting and routing enables direct calls to SAP applications. This means fewer bottlenecks during high-volume times. This component can handle connections to multiple Microsoft Exchange Servers and multiple back-end systems.
The deployment module enables data to move from the Duet server to client systems while metadata updates are made. It also deploys Microsoft .Net logic components and Microsoft InfoPath forms and documents when requested by the client.
Key advantages of the Duet architecture
Duet is designed to take advantage of the open enterprise SOA platform of the mySAP Business Suite. The architecture provides several strategic benefits. They include multilayered security with single sign-on, synchronized role management and offline Web services functionality.
Duet’s architecture maximizes security by using single sign-on. It maintains the full safeguards of both Microsoft Windows and SAP security. A user signs in and is authenticated at the desktop. He is granted access based on his current authentication privileges. For instance, an employee may have access only to his own personal information, while a manager has access to all the information for a complete business unit.
Duet allows administrators to synchronize roles from the mySAP Business Suite or SAP NetWeaver Portal. This reduces any manual effort required to map users for Duet implementation.
The architecture also makes it possible for Duet to support offline Web-service calls, a powerful and unique capability. The client add-on enables secured caching that stores data for both offline and online use, a feature similar to Microsoft’s cached mode in Outlook. The key benefits of this feature include the ability to work offline, increased system performance when working online and reduced network traffic. As a safeguard, sensitive data such as employee compensation can be configured for online access only.
One trigger to hit all points in a business process
Scheduled for mid-2007 release version 1.5 will build on the strong foundation already in place with the first release and service packs. It will introduce greater scalability with processes that require just one trigger to hit all points in a specific business process. For example, if a user updates employee data, those updates will be recorded in all necessary points with just one step.
The new release will expand configuration and customization options. And it will offer additional scenarios such as purchasing management and recruiting. Says Waibel, “Duet is a powerful business tool that gets stronger all the time.”
Over the next year or so, SAP and Microsoft will offer several value packs for Duet for Microsoft Office and SAP, with enhanced platform capabilities and language support. One of the packs will offer several new scenarios, including travel management for simplifying travel planning and expense approval via Outlook. It will also offer sales management for intuitive access to customer contact and sales-based analytics, as well as easy scheduling of customer activities. And it will offer demand planning for simplifying supply chain demand planning via Excel.