Office Business Applications
Office Business Applications (OBA) are an emerging class of software applications that help businesses unlock the value of their Line of Business (LOB) systems and turn document-based processes into real applications. OBA leverages the power of the Office Business Platform, to solve business problems. It uses the Microsoft Office System (such as Outlook, Word, or Excel) as the "front end" for a Line of Business (LOB) application.
Users perform significant additional work outside of the formal processes of a Line of Business (LOB) system as they collaborate with other people via phone and email, obtain information from multiple sources in the form of documents and spreadsheets, and switch between online and offline modes for meetings and business trips. OBA helps simplify this interaction by fitting within the informal processes that information workers actually follow. Applications and documents can be extended to add enterprise-specific features, and LOB systems can be seamlessly integrated with the Microsoft Office system to make the LOB system much more accessible.
In more detail, OBA's employ a composite application architecture, and link the 2007 Microsoft Office System applications running on the desktop to custom and off-the-shelf Line of Business (LOB) applications running on remote servers. Typically this link happens via web services. For example, rather than using Outlook only for email and calendaring, an OBA might allow Outlook to also provide a view into an inventory system, a customer service system, or an HR system.
An OBA can mean easier-to-use applications and faster adoption of enterprise systems, because end users get the familiar Office-based experience, while connecting to sometimes-unfriendly information systems or applications in the enterprise. Often the LOB services can be orchestrated by an Enterprise Service Bus such as Microsoft Biztalk Server.
Quoting from the OBA Developer website
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.
OBAs can be developed to meet a multitude of customer needs. For example, a company may want to:
- Extend its LOB application to more users.
- Implement an application that consolidates multiple user interfaces into a 2007 Office system document or SharePoint Server Web page.
- Build a workflow application that helps users to regain control of critical documents.
Companies can buy OBA's from their application vendors, or they can build their own OBAs. ISVs and integrators can build applications consistent to the OBA paradigm, and leverage the existing IT investments of their customers with the goal of delivering more end user productivity. Microsoft has also developed an OBA application, in cooperation with SAP, that is called Duet.
Examples of OBAs
- Duet - connects Microsoft Outlook and SAP apps
- OBA Central solutions catalog - See an extensive list of OBA solutions available on the market
- Xpertdoc Studio - Automates the production of reports and documents
- Invenias - Executive Search and Recruitment Software integrated into Microsoft Outlook