Office Business Applications: Pricing Exception Management Solution

If you are looking for a real-world application that showcases how to expose data from SAP using the 2007 Microsoft Office system here's one:

Long story short, the Microsoft IT department designed and implemented a Price Exception Management application using a custom Office Business Application solution. This solution exposes and synchronizes real-time data in SAP, and provides a workflow routing and approval component that helps provide a consistent user interface (UI) for approvers.

I had the opportunity to work with some of the developers and program managers of this application. We thought it would be quite interesting to share with the developer community how this application was built and what can be accomplished by creating custom Office Business Applications that help solve business problems. Office Business Applications are a new breed of applications that use the Microsoft Office system to find and surface LOB information. Office Business Applications enable businesses to extend the Microsoft Office clients and servers into business processes running in LOB applications.

What is a pricing exception management solution?

Sales employees in the field can request special deals and discounts for products for different markets. Depending on the promotion, an approval request can be routed to different managers. If a request is approved, the price change and request should be synchronized to a pricing system (SAP) and the sales employee that requested the promotion should be notified of approval.

To create this workflow, the Microsoft IT department used different technologies including ASP.NET, Windows Workflow Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Excel 2007, and the Open XML File Formats.

One of the most interesting components of this application is a set of Excel 2007 spreadsheets used to store notification and routing rules. These spreadsheets are used as decision tables and a workflow routing and approval process component reduces the time of the importing those rules by parsing the underlying Open XML File Formats files that make up an .xlsx file.

Because this is an application running in a production environment, we couldn't disclose detailed implementation details. However, we were as thorough as we could to share with you the architecture details of this solution.

We also created a video that walks you through the overall workflow and different components that make this solution.

Watch video in full screen 

We hope this article and video can help you understand how OBAs can enable businesses to extend the Microsoft Office clients and servers into business processes running in LOB applications.