SAP Watch

Mar 10 2006   5:17PM GMT

Mendocino update


The joint SAP-Microsoft project codenamed Mendocino is beginning to assume a more solid shape by the week. When we first wrote about Mendocino last year, a lot of the details were fuzzy. Here’s an update on how things played out, where the product stands today and what we can expect in the future.

Mendocino 1.0 brings the promise of seamless integration between Microsoft’s ubiquitous Outlook client and a handful of equally ubiquitous SAP processes. These processes are: time management, leave management, organization management, and cost control management/budgeting.

“That’s four out of some 70 processes,” said Kevin Fliess, SAP’s vice president of product marketing for emerging solutions, at a recent interview at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, Calif. “We have a lot of room for broadening the scope of Mendocino, and we’re currently looking at options for doing so in version 2.0.”

According to Fliess, some of the options currently on table include: 

  • Smart Tags. These show up as regular links in, say a contract written in Word, but instead of merely pointing to a URL you can actually access and edit relevant customer data in the SAP system.
  • More robust XML.
  • Enhanced employee self-service functionality.

Basically, whenever there’s a lot of routing and approvals between departments and managers, that’s where the strength of Mendocino 2.0 comes into play.

On the Microsoft side, Office 12 is on the horizon, which will further enable and enhance Mendocino’s capacity. Microsoft is switching gears to make XML the core file format of Office 12, opening the doors to better information exchange with other applications like mySAP.

“We’ve made tremendous investments in server-side technology, not just desktop tools,” said Chris Caren, general manager of Office business applications. “Office 12 will cover features like BI, content management and collaboration. One of the goals of the Mendocino roadmap is to take advantage of these server-side technologies.”

For example, the new Excel 12 is positioned as a robust BI tool. Mendocino 2.0 aims to take full advantage of that by allowing users to do rich analysis using SAP data, formatting and sharing it without ever leaving the Office interface.

Before leaving the issue of Office 12, it should be noted that it won’t become generally available until the second half of 2006, meaning Mendocino 1.0 will beat it to market by a couple months. No worries, says Caren, Mendocino 1.0 will work with Office 2003 and they’re planning to release a service pack to bridge the gap.

Moving back to Mendocino 2.0, Caren said they are basing a lot of the product on customer feedback. Two areas that are getting particular attention:

  1. Adding additional scenarios to target the same Mendocino users who find 1.0 appealing. These additions will be in the world of Employee Self Services and Manager Self Services, primarily in areas that touch a lot of employees. Caren emphasized that nothing is definite at this point, but examples of such ESS features may include purchase order routing, contract management, requisition management and travel management. For management functions, there may be an expansion on Mendocino 1.0’s bridging of IT and HR functions in areas such as employee record keeping and the ability to include things like performance reviews and goal/bonus structure information.
  2. Providing strong development tools, whether customers want to extend or improve a pre-made scenario or develop a brand new process and add it to the Office/SAP ecosystem. For example, a bank user needs to create something for fraud monitoring. That user can then create a mySAP-based tool from scratch using the Office interface and have it snap in right along the pre-made functions.

As before, Microsoft and SAP are co-developing the next version of Mendocino, Fliess said. “Mendocino uses XML-based middleware to pull together the two companies' products into a unified interface.”

It will feature the same joint support structure and it will continue to be sold separately from the mySAP Business Suite, Fliess said. The price of Mendocino 1.0 remains a mystery despite the closing GA date, meaning we probably shouldn’t hold our breath waiting to find out the price of 2.0.

Matt Danielsson

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