Gluing Office to Enterprise

Microsoft announced at the annual TechEd conference in Boston its development of Office Business Applications (OBA), a group of solutions that connect Microsoft Office at the front end to existing business solutions at the back end. Microsoft created this new group of applications to bridge the gap customers face when trying to marry desktop offerings to more advanced applications. The end result, according to the company, will be better, more fluid processes, ease of CRM-solution integration, and the opportunity for companies to more easily and cost-effectively introduce products with specialized features and specific requirements. "This is making Office more of a de facto front end for business processes. This is a direction we've been moving in," says Rob Koplowitz, director of the Office Business Applications Group at Microsoft. "Dynamics CRM absolutely continues to be the strategic focus for Microsoft, but there are a lot of other ERP CRM systems out there in which customers have become deeply entrenched and we want to provide Office at the front end for those as well." OBA comes on the tail of the response garnered by Microsoft Duet, a solution that joined Office and SAP offerings. OBA is a more comprehensive option that allows users to link Office to Microsoft's own Dynamics CRM and ERP business solutions, as well as those available through other vendors, according to the company. This linkage aims to cater to a broad audience by making the use of business apps easier for employees through the presentation of a familiar-and seemingly simpler-interface. Additionally, Microsoft announced the introduction of LOBi (line-of-business interoperability) for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, that enables users to update transactional applications through the use of the Microsoft Office. LOBi will also be used as part of Microsoft Dynamics solutions to better integrate this solution into the Office platform. Through connecting these two previously highly disparate solutions, developers will, Misrosoft avows, be able to increase solution flexibility, easing the creation of tailored business apps, which are in high demand in the CRM market. "The issue in creating any kind of a specialized product is that the number of customer you can sell that product to goes down," says John Rymer, vice president at Forrester Research. "With OBA, Microsoft is hoping that they can make the business model work." Rymer explains that rather than providing companies with a new mechanism, Microsoft defines existing business structure. "It will work," he says, "because they don't have to reinvent CRM functionality." Related articles:
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