Microsoft Trumpets Virtues of Office Business Apps

Microsoft is gearing up to show its partners how Office Business Applications (OBAs) can help organizations squeeze extra productivity out of their line-of-business apps.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant Friday published three reference application packs (RAPs), which include whitepapers and Virtual PC images that illustrate how OBAs can be used to boost efficiencies health care, manufacturing and the public sector.

Microsoft is positioning OBAs as a way to bridge Office front ends with backend CRM and ERP applications, allowing organizations to give access to these traditionally underused apps to a broader range of employees, said Daz Wilkin, program manager for Microsoft's Platform Strategy group.

Microsoft is using OBAs as the prime example of its Software + Services strategy and plans to barrage its partners with information on OBAs next month at its worldwide partner conference in Denver.

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ISVs and enterprises are expected to be the key drivers for innovation around deployment of OBAs on the Office platform.

Microsoft and SAP last year teamed up to develop Duet, an OBA that links Office apps with SAP's back end ERP apps. Duet makes it possible to peer into an SAP application, take an invoice and analyze it, and reinsert it into the SAP workflow, all without impacting performance.

In manufacturing, OBAs can be used to organize mountains of business intelligence (BI) data emanating from plant floor operations and deliver it to a foreman's mobile device or a CEO's PC screen. "Usually BI is aimed at senior executives and sales, but OBAs allow this data to be used in different scenarios," said Wilkin.

In health care, companies could set up a Sharepoint portal for employees to navigate corporate medical programs and get information on quitting smoking or joining a gym, with OBAs triggering backend workflows, Wilkin said.

OBAs can be sophisticated data warehousing and workflow management tools within the walls of Microsoft products, but companies that don't have all Microsoft infrastructure may not find them as useful, says David White, vice president of client strategy and enablement at Beacon Technologies, Madison, Wis.

"Microsoft is notorious for not wanting its products to be called out through APIs, so they are building a complete cosmos of their own systems," said White.