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Workflow software for browsers

PeopleSoft and SAP want to wire the whole corporate world with Web-enabled workflow software.

Business applications software powerhouses PeopleSoft (PSFT) and SAP want to wire the whole wide corporate world.

SAP today showcased Web-enabled workflow software designed to give the company and outside suppliers a tool for routing a wide range of information and approval requests. The product, which was demonstrated at the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany, will be included in the upcoming version 3.1 of the German software giant's R/3 system, now in beta testing and set to ship this spring.

The workflow software can be accessed with a browser or Web-ready clients such as a Lotus Development's Notes or a Microsoft Exchange client. The tool makes R/3 applications available to users across corporate networks and can even link users who do not routinely deal with R/3 applications to information stored there.

The software, for instance, could be used by a traveling salesperson for filling out customer purchase forms offline. Later, he or she could connect to the Web and send off the form for automatic routing via R/3 to the people needed to approve the sale.

"It was very clear once the Internet and intranet started taking off that workflow was going be necessary to keep track of the flow of data," Doni Steward, SAP's workflow product mark manager said. She said the software is part of SAP's move to Internet-enable its suite.

Meanwhile, PeopleSoft is rolling out a new piece of free client software called the Supply Chain Collaborator, which companies and their suppliers can use for the kind of informal messaging that usually precedes an actual transaction. The company said the collaborative software was designed to replace "ad hoc" messaging through email, faxes, voice mails, and unite all order-related communications via the Collaborator.

The Supply Chain Collaborator will be posted to the company's Web site for free downloading starting April 16. The application can work on its own as long as both the supplier and the vendor have it installed. The Collaborator can also be integrated with purchase order software from PeopleSoft's competitors, according to Mone Zweben, vice president and general manager of the company's manufacturing business unit.

"We are getting the technology out in the widest possible way," said Zweben of the initiative. "It helps get our name out there."

Web-based applications are easier to learn so they can be used by a broader swath of the corporate workforce, the companies maintain.

Separately, SAP and IBM today said they plan a joint development effort to allow IBM's DB2 Common Server running on Windows NT to serve as a database for R/3 systems.