Appian has been working closely with Microsoft and is poised to take full advantage of the new technology embodied in Vista and Microsoft Office 2007, according to Michael Beckley, Appian VP of product strategy and co-founder.
Vista, the new operating system from Microsoft, began shipping in November 2006. It incorporates a new user interface that allows the user improved interaction with the operating system. For example, gadgets can be placed on the desktop in Vista to provide real-time information. Gadgets are mini-applications that can provide information from enterprise applications as well as weather, news or other external sources. Appian's Business Process Monitoring (BPM) Suite can appear as a gadget and present dashboard information in a very small form factor.
Users have seamless access into Appian's software through the Vista interface. They do not have to log on in order to access the Appian application via a gadget, because they have already been authenticated during their single sign-on. Gadgets in Vista can invoke a full application as well as present key performance indicators.
"The functionality is similar to what is available through our Web-based application," says Beckley, "but it is now more tightly integrated with the desktop and presented in a streamlined, elegant way."
Appian has also integrated its BPM Suite with the new Microsoft Office 2007, which reflects the biggest changes in the office suite in a decade. One of the most visible changes is the replacement of the menu toolbar with a context-sensitive ribbon toolbar. The ribbon toolbar changes depending on the user's context, and is designed to bring all the options within easy reach, rather than burying them deep in the menus.
Many knowledge workers conduct the majority of their activities from within the Microsoft Office environment. For those users, accessing a BPM system from Office rather than launching a separate application is much more convenient (see related story on page 10). An Appian ribbon within Office 2007 can provide access to a variety of process options.
"If a process task requires an activity such as writing up a contract," continues Beckley, "the user can just click on one button in the Appian ribbon in the Microsoft Word application, and away they go."
Appian's BPM 5.5, released in November, includes support for Web services for remote portlets (WSRP). That feature will enable Appian's software to publish Appian content into MS Sharepoint portals, even though Appian's product is a Java application. Appian expects the new Sharepoint 2007 to be widely adopted by its clients because of its improved integration with Microsoft Office 2007 and the out-of-box support for WSRP. The roadmap for Appian's integration with Vista and Office 2007 is extensive, notes Beckley, and reflects the demand for products that are not just compatible with Microsoft, but operate on its platform in a high-performance mode.
Microsoft began working with partners early in order to help them be ready with customized applications at release time. At its Worldwide Partner Conference 2006, Microsoft announced that nearly 1,000 independent software vendors (ISVs) planned to deliver applications for Vista.
"Vista and .Net3.0 are very productive for developers to work with," says Ashish Jaiman, architect evangelist for ISVs at Microsoft. "Ribbons are written in XML code, and they can readily be extended." Beckley concurs that the ribbon allows an easy way to plug functionality into the Office environment using open standards.
Vista is also more robust and secure, according to Jaiman. "If one component misbehaves, the others remain operational," he adds. From the user side, both Vista and Office 2007 offer a richer, more immediate experience.