Microsoft Corp has released a set of tools to connect its back-office Dynamics applications to the Office 2003 suite, in a development that is similar to its Mendocino project with SAP.
The Microsoft Dynamics Snap tools allow users to interact with data and processes within Dynamics AX 3.0 (Axapta), and Dynamics CRM 3.0 without leaving Office, by taking small components from the back office applications and snapping them into the Office environment.
The initial release delivers four applications. Timesheet Snap-In and Vacation Management Snap-In, which are built for Dynamics AX only, and two versions of Business Data Lookup Snap-In, one each for Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM.
Further releases will embrace Microsoft’s other back office applications, Dynamics GP (Great Plains), Dynamics NV (Navision) and Dynamics SL (Solomon) and extend the functionality while also focussing on supporting specific business roles as part of Microsoft’s initiative to build software that reflects how users work.
Using Timesheet Snap-In, Outlook users can view or submit time entries for regular tasks while the application also links Dynamics AX time entries to Outlook appointments and meetings. Vacation Management Snap-In allows users to submit vacation requests via Outlook, of the request is approved the system automatically updates the vacation time entry into the time and attendance module in AX.
The Business Data Lookup Snap-In enables the use of Microsoft Office programs within Dynamics AX or CRM task windows to browse data from the AX or CRM applications, copy data from them into Office documents, or attach documents to records in Dynamics AX or CRM. Microsoft describes this as in context data lookup and it is an area where Snap differs from Mendocino.
These four Snap applications are being delivered as part of the Code Gallery project at the .NET developer community site and are available free of charge. Microsoft is also providing the source code via a Microsoft Permissive License.
Snap is a shared-source initiative, enabling partners and customers to extend or customize functionality and part of its appeal will be that the technology will be able to be used to developer for vertical market or to build composite applications.
Snap is part of Microsoft’s long range Dynamics strategy which ultimately aims to unite its business applications through a single code base. Snap fits into its first development phase, broadly covering mid 2005 to the end of 2006, which aims to deliver a common interface based around Office and business user role based desktops plus deep Office, SharePoint and SQL Server Reporting integration.
The first phase also included a commitment to deliver Web services-based application components, a promise that Snap is designed to meet. The second wave will focus on providing common server technology and a common process and business rules model.