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Have you heard of Project Elixir? It received a bit of press about a year ago, and is once again gaining some attention.
Project Elixir is an internal Microsoft initiative to integrate critical customer data within Outlook. It uses Web services to enable the Microsoft sales force to access customer data that has normally been stored elsewhere, such as in the company's CRM.
Microsoft is now releasing a case study and some code so that you can get a more in-depth view of what they have done. Their project uses Microsoft Office and Outlook. Using Outlook, their sales people are able to interface to the data that they need. Specifically, they can get to data within their CRM, customer support system (CSS), sales history, and marketing databases. Using Outlook to access Web Services, the sales force has access to all of this data in a structured, organized manner.
Microsoft has turned this project into a case study and has made sample code available. If you are looking for ways to provide access to the information in your CRM or other systems to a distributed work force, then this case study may be of interest.
Of course, it is in Microsoft's best interest to get you to try this out. Many people regularly use Office and Outlook. If you start building application interfaces that take advantage of these, then you might end up with end-users that are more productive because they are already familiar with aspects of your interfaces. Of course, you might end up with a reason for people to continue to use Microsoft Office as well....
For more on this, you can check out the items Microsoft has posted on MSDN:
Outlook Customization for Integrating with Enterprise Applications
- Extending Enterprise Applications with Microsoft Outlook: Architectural Design Guide
- Synchronizing a Local Data Store with Microsoft Outlook
- CRM Integration Sample for Outlook Source Setup
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