One of the more interesting items to be announced at the recent Microsoft Convergence EMEA event was ‘snaps’. The company has added a few more snaps to its list, including a corporate and social responsibility dashboard. This one is particularly interesting as achieving savings on resources used can have a significant impact on a firm’s bottom line, as well as providing a positive PR boost.
It would appear that the idea of snaps (or Snap-Ins, as Microsoft officially calls them) arose from the work that Microsoft and SAP worked on together to help integrate ERP systems more closely with desktop applications, allowing users to rapidly pass form-based information into back-office systems without the usual duplication (or worse) of effort that is often needed to manually input clerical data.
Earlier in the year, Microsoft announced the availability on its GotDotNet site of four of these, a Timesheet Management Snap-In, a holiday/leave Vacation Management Snap-In, and two flavors of a Business Data Lookup Snap-In, one for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 and the other for Microsoft Dynamics AX 3.0. These allowed similar functionality to that which has been made available with Duet (the renamed Mendocino project that Microsoft and SAP had worked on).
Organizations, or more usually the Microsoft partner that works with them to implement the various Dynamics products, can integrate these snaps with their own versions of Dynamics and make productivity gains. The business data lookups allow users to access non-Dynamics, Office-based data directly from within the application (AX or CRM).
Some new snaps were announced at the Convergence event. An expense management snap that combines Excel-based expense entry with a SharePoint workflow capability for the expense authorization process; an analytic snap based on Excel and Excel Server to help analyze business data from within the Dynamics application; and a Business Data Search capability, allowing a search term (such as a customer name) to be used across all structured and unstructured data (including emails and documents). This helps the user to combine all relevant information when they need it, instead of having to conduct several searches separately.
However, one of the most interesting, if somewhat nebulous, snaps is the latest one announced at Convergence – a Corporate and Social Responsibility dashboard. This arose out of the growing awareness that environmental issues are starting to eat up resources (both organizational and IT) in terms of the requirement to gather information for reporting purposes.
Annual reports nowadays demand public statements of corporate positioning, and the data gathering requirements of this can be a major challenge. The dashboard combines SharePoint and Excel functionality, together with the back-office Dynamics data to help create a ‘CEO homepage’ view. While this snap is not yet available, it certainly sounds like a way of simplifying some of the data gathering issues in this area.
Environmental and social issues may appear to have little benefit to businesses, and many will just pay lip service to any regulations while getting on with business as usual. However, making savings on resources used can have a significant benefit to the bottom line, and identifying and quantifying this can then enhance the image of the business.
Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)