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Microsoft Previews LOBi at TechEd

Looking to establish more pipelines between its Office 2007 suite of desktop applications and several of its server-based applications, Microsoft on Monday at its Tech Ed 2006 showed off an early version of a technology that would deeply embed processes and data into Office clients.

Called Line Of Business interoperability (LOBi) for SharePoint Server, the technology permits structured process integration with Office client applications, enables people to update transactional applications from within Office, and to more securely take structured business processes and data offline.

The company expects to deliver a technical preview version of the technology late this fall and deliver the finished product by the middle of next year.

In concert with the LOBi preview, Microsoft also showed off a set of services that will ship with SharePoint 2007 designed to make it easier to import and integrate external data into Office applications. There are six different services slated to ship with SharePoint including workflow, search, business data catalog, extensible UI, OpenXML file formats, Web site and security framework.

"We are looking to make this feel like a natural extension and will deliver line-of-business processes into Office clients," Chris Capossela, corporate vice president with Microsoft's Information Worker Business Unit in a session at Tech Ed 2006.

Most users conduct their work outside structured, line-of-business processes mainly because their work increasingly is becoming collaborative, company officials said. Consequently they need to pull together information from multiple sources and/or are working offline.

The two technologies are part of a larger initiative to encourage the creation of what the company is calling Office Business Applications, designed to allow users to use their more familiar Office environment for interacting with business applications and structured processes.

Some industry analysts believe the announcements address a problem many IT professionals face involving the integration of business processes.

“Stove-pipe, project centric, business process automation has dominated enterprise applications. But pressure for business processes flexibility and agility, along with the introduction of new cross-application solutions, is breaching the boundaries and extending into person-to-process interaction. The industry will move more toward capabilities that will combine the corporate view of process with the process of the individual user,” said Yvonne Genovese, vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner Inc.

Microsoft claims that over 900 business partners are currently readying solutions that will exploit Office Business Application Services for Office 2007 Office System.

Most users conduct their work outside structured, line-of-business processes mainly because their work increasingly is becoming collaborative, company officials said. Consequently they need to pull together information from multiple sources and/or are working offline.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.

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