Yesterday (13/02/2008) I attended a MSDN evening organised by Microsoft Belgium about Office Business Applications (OBA). Serge Luca from U2U and MVP for Connected Systems gave an overview about OBA from a development perspective . He had also plenty of demo’s available. Too bad his time was limited.
This is what I remembered from it.
OBA are applications that leverage the Office Suite applications beyond their out-of-the box capabilities and integrate them with other systems in your organisation (Line-Of-Business Apps).
The key driver for leveraging Office is to let users stay in their “comfort zone”. While organisations have invested large amounts in the user experience in packaged and custom applications , users still like to work in their familiar Office tools. Even the advent of web-enabling all the LOBs didn’t stop users from for example pumping SAP data into Excel and use it from there on. The user-experience the people get from Office tools is unbeatable.
That’s why Microsoft made Office 2007 System a truly development platform to enable developers to create OBA. The technology enablers are not only situated on the client side (i.e. Office Apps themselves) but also on the server side. For example you can extend the Office user interface (ribbon extension, task panes, Outlook from region) . Thanks to the Office open XML format you can intervene in the documents at file-level . This open possibility to programmatic creation of for example word documents. You even don’t need a Word instance on the server. Infopath enable the creation of electronic forms. Sharepoint and related technologies are the enablers to create workflow oriented applications and extend the content document capabilities of Sharepoint. The Business data Catalog makes it easier to retrieve and search information that is already available in ERP systems or databases.
And all this technology can be unleashed through one development environment ; Visual Studio 2008.
In final part of his presentation Serge mentioned 6 basic OBA patterns or scenario’s if you will. Unfortunately he didn't have the time to go through them but the demo’s he showed , were actually implementation of these 6 patterns. A book he highly recommends in that respect is 6 Microsoft Office Business Applications for Office SharePoint Server 2007 from Microsoft Press .
So if you think Office Development is only about VBA (which is still possible by the way) , think again and check out http://www.obacentral.com/. Or like Serge said : "Let's Rock 'n' Roll (with OBA)"