Microsoft offers Office integration for backend apps

With the release of Office Business Applications (OBA) Reference Application Pack (RAP) this week, Microsoft in essence is acknowledging that they are on to something big in the enterprise market.

Microsoft is calling this the second generation of OBA and is in response to wide acceptance of the first generation.

Like Duet, a product partnership with SAP that offers up the Office suite of products as a standard interface for SAP backend applications, OBA RAP will do the same, but this time not tied to any vendor's backend system.

Josh Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, said that OBA is significant because Office is certainly one of the better interfaces around for knowledge workers.

The release of the OBA reference for building the front end to a supply chain management system will demonstrate that a company can build a procurement process with a combination of Outlook, Word, and Excel and do everything they want, said Greenbaum.

OBA addresses the disconnect between business process and business practice, according to Tim O'Brien, director of platform strategy group at Microsoft.

"While entering a purchase order is automated, negotiating the final price with a customer happens in IM or Outlook," said O'Brien.

While the supply chain application released this week could be adopted as-is, it is really meant more as a reference guide for developers and architects on how to build an OBA to implement collaboration scenarios in a supply chain context.

By way of example, O'Brien said a typical procurement scenario might be importing a Rosetta.Net schema into Office in order to design the form, making it look any way you want it to look.

OBA RAP is available now as a free download on MSDN and is meant to work with Office 2007, due out later this year.

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Ephraim Schwartz

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