Getting to know OBA (Office Business Applications)

What is OBA?  It is a question I am hearing more and more from customers lately. 

We get the following definition from MSDN " The Microsoft Office system provides a comprehensive set of servers, clients, and tools to make it easier for enterprises, software vendors and developers to build and deploy a new class of business applications called Office Business Applications (OBAs).  OBAs connect Line of Business (LOB) systems with the people that use them through the familiar user interface of Microsoft Office. OBAs enable businesses to extend the Microsoft Office clients and servers into business processes running in LOB applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM). This enables enterprises to create new value from existing IT investments by combining them in innovative ways. Office system Platform. "

But what does that mean?  In a nutshell, OBA is taking your current investment in Microsoft Office Technologies (both the client and server tiers) and using them to create your own composite application in a familiar user environment.  In fact, most of these technologies you probably already have within your enterprise.  Excel... Word... Powerpoint... there are business processes that live and breath in that world.  These are the processes where your "Excel Wizards" create formulas of fabulous proportions.  Why should they need to learn a new application when the information they need and use is right there in Office? 

Over the past year we have seen the rise of powerful new extensible, collaboration technologies too.. Open XML,  Infopath Forms,  and WSS 3.0/Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007. We now have a platform where collaboration is commonplace, employees can get calendar and presence information instantly.  Enterprises are leveraging SharePoint webparts that pull data from excel spreadsheets, back end databases, and web services to create dashboards and portals users can modify themselves.  Empowerment. 

That's OBA!  It is taking those office technologies and creating a LOB application for your employees in an already familiar environment.  Plus, the power that all of the office platform brings, and no need to start from scratch. 

Want examples?

  • The Scripps Application I blogged about recently is one.  It takes the familiar world scientists are used to working in and leverages the power of .NET 3.0, Open XML and Sharepoint. 
  • Duet is another , jointly developed with Microsoft and SAP, it takes the power of the Office Client and lets users interact with backed SAP data.

The MSDN Solution Architecture Center has two great reference applications you can begin leveraging today as well:

There is an excellent Steve Ballmer OBA Overview video that shows an OBA Airlines Lifecycle Management application developed for Dassault Systemes. 

Also, some excellent OBA banter at channel 9 here, here, and here!

Lastly, sure to check out the official OBA Developers Portal as and the Official whitepaper for Building Composite Office Applications.

Got OBA?  =)


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