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Some SAP users love the CRM WebClient user interface, while others... well, don't love it quite as much. The WebClient is a wonderful tool for CRM power users who work in the system all day, and who need the full breadth of CRM functionality to complete complex tasks. However, for occasional and light users, like sales reps who spend most of their time selling and only use the CRM system to retrieve and update customer information, the WebClient can be overkill.

That's why SAP has come out with a number of alternatives for occasional and light users who need to access CRM functionality. For example, in 2013 SAP unveiled the Fiori UX, SAP’s next-generation HTML5 user interface that is optimized to run on mobile devices, but which can run on any device including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. You can read my blog about Fiori for CRM here. Similarly, earlier this year in 2014, SAP also came out with Desktop Connection for SAP CRM, which allows users to access CRM functionality directly from office productivity suite tools such as Microsoft Outlook and IBM (Lotus) Notes.

What is Desktop Connection for SAP CRM?

Desktop Connection for SAP CRM is a new offering from SAP that allows you to manage CRM accounts, contacts, emails, tasks, appointments, leads and opportunities from Microsoft Outlook or IBM (Lotus) Notes. Desktop Connection enables users to organize their daily activities and see important CRM data in a familiar application without the need to use the SAP CRM WebClient.

Desktop Connection consists of an add-in for Outlook or Notes that uses oData services to keep data in synch between Outlook or Notes and SAP CRM. Because CRM data is physically downloaded to the user's Outlook or Notes installation, Desktop Connection can be used both online and offline (although some features are only available online).

Who is iCRM? Is Desktop Connection an SAP solution, or a partner solution?

SAP teamed up with a company named InvisibleCRM (iCRM) to co-develop Desktop Connection for SAP CRM. iCRM is a established company with proven experience in integration enterprise applications with office productivity software. While the solution leverages the InvisibleCRM Synch Platform, it is an SAP solution, offered and maintained solely by SAP.

Does Desktop Connection replace CRM Groupware?

Desktop Connection for SAP CRM is not necessarily designed to replace the SAP CRM Groupware offering. If a customer is already using SAP Client-Based Groupware or SAP Server-Based Groupware, and they are happy with the solution, then they should continue using it. On the other hand, if a customer is having issues with Groupware, particularly with Client-Based Groupware, then they could consider whether Desktop Connection might be a suitable replacement. Customers using Server-Side Groupware could of course also consider migrating to Desktop Connection, but doing so would obviously necessitate moving from a server-side solution to a client-side solution, which introduces provisioning issues.

Of course, if a customer hasn't implemented any Groupware solution yet, then they should definitely consider Desktop Connection first, as it delivers additional features and capabilities beyond what is provided by either the Client-Based or Server-Based Groupware offerings. For example, Desktop Connection also includes email synchronization capabilities. In addition, the Enterprise Edition of Desktop Connection also supports synchronization of additional CRM business objects such as Leads and Opportunities.

What's the difference between the Professional Edition and the Enterprise Edition?

The Professional Edition of Desktop Connection for SAP CRM, which was introduced in Q1 of 2014, is included free of charge with a customer's existing CRM license. The Professional Edition provides support for accounts, contacts, emails, tasks, and appointments.

The Enterprise Edition, which was introduced in Q4 of 2014, contains enhanced capabilities and requires an additional software license. The Enterprise Edition contains all of the capabilities of the Professional Edition, plus some additional features. Perhaps most notably, the Enterprise Edition also supports synchronization of Leads and Opportunities. The Enterprise Edition can also be extended to by customers on a project basis to support additional CRM business objects (Sales Quotations, Sales Orders, Complaints, etc.). Finally, the Enterprise Edition also supports many-to-one relationships between contact persons and accounts, multiple text types, and recurring appointments.

Can Desktop Connection be used offline?

Yes, Desktop Connection can be offline for many scenarios. For example, most objects like contact, accounts, leads and opportunities can be edited offline and then synched up later with the backend CRM server when the user is online. However, some features do require the user to have an online connection. For example, to search for and link an existing CRM Service Order to a new appointment, the user would need to be online in order to connect to the CRM server to search against the Service Orders (as Service Orders are not synchronized with the users Outlook/Notes installation).

What versions of Microsoft Outlook and IBM Notes are supported? Is Office365 supported?

SAP Desktop Connection is compatible with Microsoft Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 and IBM Notes 8.5 and 9.0. Regarding Microsoft Office 365... Office 365 has two deployment options either using the web access or a locally installed client. Desktop Connection is only compatible with the locally installed Outlook client; Desktop Connection is not compatible with an Exchange 365 server scenario using the Outlook web app. Desktop Connection in conjunction with OutlookWeb Access (OWA), meaning accessing Outlook features with a simple URL, is not supported.

Are there performance issues with downloading all of this CRM data?

SAP provides oData services that allow Desktop Connection to access and update CRM data via periodic synchronization, ensuring changes are synchronized correctly. The initial download is the most data-intensive. After the initial download, Desktop Connection only performs incremental delta downloads, so performance is not generally an issue.

In addition, Desktop Connection provides various options for reducing the size of the initial download. For example, rather than downloading all accounts in the CRM system, Desktop Connection only downloads the accounts that each individual sales rep is responsible for. This can be achieved through a variety of configurable options including using the HR Org Model assignment, territory management, employee responsible partner function, or even via custom logic in a BADI.

How much does it cost? Does it require an additional license?

The basic Professional Edition of Desktop Connection is included free of charge in the customer's existing CRM license.

The enhanced Enterprise Edition, which contains additional features and capabilities, must be licensed separately. Please contact your account representative for local pricing info.

How to install Desktop Connection?

An Administrator's Guide for Desktop Connection is available to help walk you through the deployment and installation process. In addition, after the installation is finished, a First-Run Assistant is available to guide you through the basic settings, customization package retrieval, and initial synchronization.

Where to find more info?

You can find several presentations about Desktop Connection for SAP CRM:

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