04 December, 2009

ISVs can use SharePoint to light up their desktop applications

SharePoint is the server cornerstone that makes the Office clients light up. With SharePoint running in the background, the Office suite is enriched with additional functionality enhancing the collaboration experience. ISVs that are building desktop applications can use this same pattern to light up their applications.

I have had the pleasure of spending the last week with the Winshuttle team in Seattle and they have done exactly that. Winshuttle's main product is transactionSHUTTLE which is a desktop application that empowers business users to automate processes by shuttling data between SAP and Excel. transactionSHUTTLE is a great product in its own right addressing some very common challenges with SAP around mass manipulation of master and transaction data. However, what I really wanted to point out in this post is the architecture of the combined suite of transactionSHUTTLE and the supplementary server offering, eSHUTTLE, which is a SharePoint solution.

Winshuttle has for a number of years been offering their transactionSHUTTLE product to SAP customers as a standalone desktop application. When requirements emerged to offer a more enterprise-level solution with governance and workflow features, it became evident that a server component was required. Rather than building a server component from scratch eSHUTTLE was implemented as a SharePoint solution.

eSHUTTLE provides a central site for managing users and licenses and takes advantage of many of SharePoint's standard features including document libraries, workflow and alerts. All the desktop instances communicate with the server through the standard SharePoint web services. Artefacts created on the desktop can be submitted to SharePoint workflows and outstanding tasks are shown on the welcome screen of the desktop application.

This architecture does not only make life easier for Winshuttle because they can leverage the foundation of an existing platform. It is also highly beneficial to an organisation deploying the product because they can drop it into their existing SharePoint environment and their users are already familiar with the UI. For example, as the software vendor, Winshuttle does not have to worry about defining a viable backup and disaster recovery strategy for their server component. And the target organisation does not need to validate the backup and disaster recovery strategy of the vendor. The vendor and the customer are both leveraging the hard work Microsoft has already put into this for the SharePoint platform.

Winshuttle has managed to leverage SharePoint as a platform for delivering additional capability to their product suite in a way that lowers the cost of development but also lowers the cost of ownership for an organisation deploying the solution. eSHUTTLE lights up transactionSHUTTLE in much the same way SharePoint lights up the Office clients. And with the new Service Application model in SharePoint 2010, ISVs will have even more capability available to ustilise in their server offerings.