If you know me, you know that I'm unusually fond of TLAs, or three-letter-acronyms. There are a few new acronyms from Microsoft (among the best in the world at generating them) that I thought you might find of interest: Meet OBA and LOBi.
Their public unveiling came in this press release from June 2006, at the Tech Ed conference in Boston. Simply put, they are Microsoft's tools for better integrating Office with other systems people use, marrying unstructured data typically managed on people's desktops and hard drives with structured data stored in line-of-business applications such as point of sale, supply chain management, or time and billing. If you or your colleagues still "dump" static data from line-of-business systems into a tool like Excel to manipulate, analyze, or present it; or if you have colleagues who re-key data from Office tools like Word and Excel into line-of-business systems for processing, read on:
OBA stands for Office Business Applications, and as they are released, they will use such Office services as: workflow, search, the new Office user interface and file formats, new frameworks for security and web applications, and the Business Data Catalog. When you think of OBA, think first of Duet, the joint initiative between Microsoft and SAP to make Office and SAP's applications much more compatible. Also, expect Microsoft's own business applications to take advantage of these new capabilities in upcoming versions.
LOBi stands for line-of-business interoperability, and is a framework for Office SharePoint Server to allow deep integration between users' line-of-business systems and Microsoft Office. This would include, among others:
- Surfacing content from LOB applications in rich client Office applications (e.g., an Excel dashboard or a gadget on a desktop reading directly from a point-of-sale system)
- Providing transactional write-back capabilities from the client to the underlying LOB application (e.g., an expense report template in Excel that validates employee ID, project IDs, etc., then launches an approval workflow and creates a payment request in the financial system once approved)
Expect to see and hear much about these initiatives in the future. In my dealings with Microsoft's team, I am seeing resources hired and moved around to increase focus on these areas, and I expect more to follow as compelling scenarios for Vista and Office adoption remain important in early 2007.
For additional information on OBA and LOBi, I recommend Javed Sikander's whitepaper.
[graphics herein are from Sikander's whitepaper]