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This week’s ASUG News article written by Thomas Wailgum offered a rare introspect to the dynamics of when “elephants dance” – namely the deep relationship between SAP and Microsoft and the architectures that join the two together.  It poses the age-old question: can two large companies, vying for overlapping market space, come together and collaborate in the same market waters.

There can be no question that Microsoft is the dominant player in office management application software.  I cited in my recent SCN post to this very Duet Enterprise page that 3/4 of all large enterprise customers either use Microsoft SharePoint or plan to do so in the future.  That’s a heady number.  So what drives SharePoint adoption without the exclusion of other web-based portal environments like SAP?  In short: SharePoint is easy to use, secure to store large amounts of documents in repository fashion, with helpful plug-ins to native Microsoft platforms (like Microsoft Project) that drive the need to get work done.  And we all use them.  Even if we are working on an enterprise risk management (ERM) initiative using SAP RM10, or a project plan using SAP Project Schedule (PS), we have the smart ability to output to Microsoft platform tools.  Even SAP’s Planning and Consolidation tool (formerly known as BusinessObjects BPC) runs natively on a Microsoft Excel environment as a ribbon plug-in.  The integration is quick, intuitive, painless and in a native environment that everyone has and knows how to use.

SAP’s major offensive push is to create a low-cost of entry user adoption scenario for large enterprise customers who already have Microsoft SharePoint as a user interface investment well established in their user groups with the need to access SAP Business Suite and LOB solutions.  This reduces user ramp-up and training costs (no need to learn SAP GUI or web-based environments) and provides incremental sales in SAP base user licenses (BULs). “Power users” who have more administrative and higher governance roles inside of customer organizations will likely still see the need to purchase full user licenses (FULs) however this is an incremental expense for some rather than a high expense for all.

Another key point is that SAP needs a defensive strategy as well for Microsoft, particularly as its flagship AX offerings start to move up-market and Business Suite – with clearly defined and easy to implement All-in-One (A1) solutions – move down-market and out to subsidiaries.  In a recent conversation with a Microsoft partner, it was clear that their business plan with Microsoft would run in conflict with the opportunities to build new solutions bridging the platforms via Duet Enterprise.  This is not surprising – while customers can “menu select” how best to deliver business processes to their various user groups, partners need to be more deliberate in their go to market solution strategies.  The SAP and Microsoft alliance can be problematic for some Microsoft partners who are well-established in the small to mid-size business (SMB) and lower end of the large enterprise customers space. 

This should not deter SAP customers from considering a leveraged hybrid environment with Microsoft using Duet Enterprise.  More pre-configured solutions are becoming available over time on the SAP marketplace to cut development cycles to implementation.  However, SAP customers should “pick their bets” carefully both for the specific business scenario they are considering for a hybrid solution, as well as the partner who may inadvertently bring any channel conflict into their implementation efforts.  Just like sound due diligence practices should be considered for any project effort, so too should careful planning be made when working in a joint Microsoft and SAP environment. This will help to ensure high expected benefits of reduced deployment cycle time and costs may be realized.

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  1. Andreas Rohr

    I have used the term “elephants dance”  or “elephants tango”  in my articles in some german SharePoint Magazine. Funny to see that it has now become a generic term. 🙂

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