Microsoft develops closer Office/ERP integration

Microsoft is developing integration technology to enable end-users to update enterprise systems from ­Office applications such as Word and Excel.

Microsoft is developing integration technology to enable end-users to update enterprise systems from ­Office applications such as Word and Excel.

Called Lobi (Line-of-Business Interoperability) for Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server, the product is part of Microsoft’s People-Ready initiative to help IT directors extend the use of enterprise applications within their businesses.

Microsoft said Lobi would provide deep structured process integration with Office client applications. It would also enable users to update transactional applications from within Microsoft Office, and allow structured business processes and data to be taken offline more ­securely.

The company already offers integration with MySAP through the jointly developed Duet product. As with Lobi, Duet relies on Office 2007 and Sharepoint Server.

Rob Gray, portals and BSM product manager at Microsoft, said, “Lobi extends what Microsoft is doing with Duet.”

Commenting on the use of Office 2007 as an application platform, John Rymer, vice-president at Forrester Research, said, “The primary limitation is that applications will not be portable across operating systems because they require not only the Office front ends but also the new Office server.”

Through Lobi, Micrsoft is working with suppliers such as Accenture, OpenText, Hyperion Solutions, UGC and Epicor to help them develop integration with Office 2007.

AMR Research analysts Jim Murphy and John Hagerty said better support for XML and other factors were making Microsoft software more open than it has ever been, but the easiest integration, the slickest features and arguably the highest value would be gained by users who adopt the entire Microsoft stack, including Office 2007 and Windows Vista. “Let’s not mistake the motivations – Microsoft wants you to upgrade, and quickly,” they said.

AMR believes Microsoft Office is evolving into a platform, with Sharepoint also at the centre of Microsoft’s platform strategy.A technical preview of Lobi for Office Sharepoint Server will be available at the end of 2006.

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