Startup Topaz Bridge has scored a big hit with its Topaz Bridge S2, an application that lets users work with SAP human resources data through Microsoft SharePoint, by signing a deal with pharmaceutical company Merck.

Duet, the software jointly developed by Microsoft and SAP, has a similar purpose, allowing users to access various SAP data through Microsoft Office interfaces. But Duet's architecture, which also involves a separate server, is more complex than Topaz Bridge's approach, said Noam Topaz, CEO of the Kirkland, Washington, company.

Merck is using Topaz Bridge S2 for a global employee portal that will enable workers to update SAP HR data on their own, said Merck CIO J. Chris Scalet.

"Our employee population plays in the Microsoft Office suite each and every day. What this allows us to do is take that same UI available in Microsoft and leverage it in SAP," Scalet said.

Merck has nearly 60,000 employees around the world. Scalet said he has a "tremendous amount of confidence" in the startup's ability to roll out the enterprise-wide project.

Topaz, who worked closely with SharePoint technology during a 10-year-plus stint at Microsoft, described his company's strategic value as "a MacGyver thing," referring to the popular 1980s television show about a secret agent who foiled villains by rigging at-hand items into creative gadgets and non-lethal weapons.

"If you've already invested in SharePoint and SAP, you already have the key components for our solution," he said. "We're basically using the [SharePoint] framework and bringing it together with all the business processes SAP spends a lot of money to perfect."

Existing security and governance polices in the SAP system are enforced automatically. The Topaz Bridge software also helps save companies money by reducing the need for employee training and support, such as through offshore call centres, he said.

Topaz Bridge's approach can be applied to other enterprise platforms and applications, such as Oracle, but initially the company decided to hone in on SAP's human resources module, he said.

Also, Topaz Bridge S2 works only with SharePoint's enterprise edition, since that version has more robust central management features, he said. He declined to provide pricing information.

Meanwhile, the company is proceeding with the Merck rollout, which will occur over the next several months. "We just want to be laser-focused on delivering a quality product," Topaz said. "The entire company is focused on making sure Merck will be a satisfied customer."