OBG2011 Release Interview with CTO Dr. Stefan Zimmermann

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Dear Combionic Blog readers,

with the release of the new OBG version, I took the opportunity and asked our CTO Dr. Stefan Zimmermann, why he would recommend OBG2011 to developers and which applications he would like to see integrated in Office.

What is special about OBG from a developer point of view?

Office Business Gateway helps to integrate solutions in other clients, without having to think about the specific integration technologies of these environments. This means a developer can create his Microsoft® Office integration once and it is ready to use in different applications of the Office Suite (Office 2007 and Office 2010) and, with the help of OBG2011, they can be used in even more client applications independent from application flavors or versions.

With OBG you can create solutions, which are independent from each other, but – with the Context Navigation concept – are able to work together to support the working steps of the user. Thus you can create more user-friendly applications and get faster and higher acceptance.

Furthermore the usability and user-friendliness can be increased through the use of semantic elements, the so called „Recognizers“. They detect possible contextual connections, which are hidden in the information the user works with. Based on the context, further actions can be defined, which can be offered to the user in the context of the current task.

Example: A sales representative receives an e-mail from her customer, who wants to get information about a recent order. With the help of OBG recognizers you can connect the “e-mail from customer X” with the information “order from customer X” and provide this information to the sales representative. Even more – the sales representative can detect, that the order wasn´t proceeded, because payment information were missing. Right out of the OBG solution, the sales representative can add the missing information and take the order to the next step. This can increase the productivity significantly.

OBG solutions can be developed much easier than classical Office integrations. They can be created in a metadata-driven fashion, based on the corresponding architecture, which are supported through tools in OBG2011, such as the metadata editor and class templates.

The solutions doesn´t need to be „hard“ installed on the client, which can be a complex task in many enterprise environments, but rather can be deployed to a central server (similar to web or portal solutions), where they can be downloaded and cached from OBG “on demand”. Of course, you can configure this cache. This flexible “on demand” provisioning of solutions combines the advantages of management and maintenance of web applications with the comprehensiveness of client applications.

What´s new in OBG2011 compared to OBG2010?

With OBG2011 we want to further extend our support for developers.  The integrated developer tools, such as the metadata editor directly integrated in Visual Studio® and OBG Class Templates.

On the technical side we have an entire support of the .NET 4.0 Framework and made some additions to the APIs, so you can now view the context history and respond to it from within the solution. The biggest new feature is the first integration besides Microsoft® Office, the integration in Internet Explorer® 8 & 9. 

What are the benefits for Developers and Partners?

From my point of view, in projects, in presales phases or in product development the following benefits can be observed:

  • shorter development time
  • lower development and maintenance costs
  • faster prototyping and therefore
    • more likely a successful presale phase => more sales
    • or shorter product cycles => get faster to a product
    • Flexibility through ‘easy to extend and adapt’ solutions, especially through the server-based deployment and the metadata-based formulation of the solution
    • concentration on your own USP

Would you advise every user to upgrade from OBG2010 to OBG2011 now?

If you developed your solution with OBG2010 and don´t want to make further adjustments, such as client adjustments or increase of user base, OBG2010 is still fine. But if plan to do so, you probably can benefit because of the new license model and the new features of OBG2011.

How would an upgrade happen?

Basically, there is no problem for solutions, which run on OBG2010 to run on OBG2011 either. If you have any problems, you can use the e-mail support included in the different subscription models.

If you could pick one application to integrate it into Office or IE, which one would it be?

There are two problem domains (which are connected somehow), which I would love to have solutions for them integrated in my work environment.

The first is the common theme of “research, collect and share information”. Although Office makes it very easy to edit information, you have to go through different applications to search for the information initially. For example, you have to go to IE to copy information from the web, and paste it into a document. Afterwards the connection to the source is most likely lost.

The collection and management of information in combination with collaboration for editing of that information would be a great benefit from my point of view.

Second: my role model for my personal management is the „Getting Things Done“ paradigm by David Allen. There are some Outlook-based tools, but they oblige you to a specific client application. My wish would be the support of my work through integration in other Office applications or Internet Explorer®.