Dynamic Duo? Microsoft and SAP Preview Mendocino Technologies

When it debuts, Mendocino will more tightly couple Office with SAP. But don’t look for it before this summer.

Last spring, Microsoft Corp. and SAP AG announced “Mendocino,” an initiative to more tightly couple Microsoft’s Office productivity suite with SAP’s application stack. At the time, the two companies promised to fill in more of the Mendocino blanks before the end of the year.

Late last month—on Friday, December 23rd no less—Microsoft and SAP hosted a Mendocino technology preview for 40 customers and 10 partners.

In other words, Mendocino came in just under the wire.

If and when it goes live, Mendocino looks to be a win-win for both partners. It will allow knowledge workers to use Microsoft’s productivity applications—Excel, Outlook, and Word, among others—to accomplish many SAP-related tasks, thanks to extended application menus, an SAP-specific smart panel, Excel-based analytics, and “smart” Word documents.

“Our goal is to enable Microsoft Office to bridge the gulf between enterprise data sources and the information workers who need to view and analyze business information, plan and make decisions, and collaborate with others,” said Chris Caren, general manager of Microsoft's Office business applications group, in a statement.

For example, the Mendocino technologies will support synchronization between Microsoft’s Exchange groupware platform and SAP processes (via the Outlook client). Both companies say this should enable a new level of continuity between information-worker and enterprise business applications by simplifying the ways information workers access and use enterprise applications.

Mendocino should make Microsoft’s notoriously anarchistic Office products (e.g., the Excel spreadsheet) more compliance-friendly, too, by reducing ad hoc workflows (e.g., Excel-based “spreadmarts”) in favor of approved—and Excel-friendly—corporate processes.

There’s also the UI angle: both companies say the ubiquity of Microsoft’s Office UI will lead to faster end-user uptake and adoption.

Currently, Mendocino product development is focused on four scenarios: budget monitoring, which purports to provide managers with access to the financial data they need for budget planning and monitoring, cost analysis, and reconciliation; a time management scenario, which will enable employees to record and review hours worked in the context of the Outlook calendar; a leave management scenario, whereby employees can request and receive leave approvals in Outlook mail; finally, an organization management scenario incorporates HR-related administrative and planning tasks into Outlook.

When can rank and file SAP users expect to get their hands on Mendocino? Don’t look for it before Q2 of this year: “We’re making good progress towards a broader beta release in the spring and final availability in the late-summer 2006 timeframe,” said Caren.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.