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Line of Business Silverlight Apps that Rock

Line of Business Silverlight Apps that Rock

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Silverlight, Microsoft’s plug-in for delivering cross-platform Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and experiences has been out for a while now.  The first, JavaScript-only version was released at Microsoft’s MIX07 conference in May of 2007.  Subsequently, Silverlight 2 (the first .NET-enabled version) was released as a go-live technology shortly following the 2008 Beijing Olympics where the beta version of Silverlight 2 had a stellar performance providing a truly immersive experience for viewing the Olympics online.  Silverlight 3, the newly announced next version of the plug-in was introduced in beta version at MIX09 back in March of this year has provided increased buzz and is looking like a very promising, forward-looking platform for RIA experiences.

Given the amount of time the platform has now been available, we’re starting to see some incredible creativity and very focused, user-centric applications being built for Silverlight.  I’m very excited about many of these applications and solutions for both business and consumer scenarios and I want to share some of these great experiences with you.  This first post will be about business-oriented Silverlight applications and a subsequent post will highlight some consumer-oriented applications.

It used to be that most rich experiences on the web were focused on public-facing or consumer-based applications.  It makes sense; we often see user-centric innovation outside the firewall before we see it inside due to the cost of re-vamping existing line of business applications as well as focusing investment on activities that directly impact customers positively.  While that is certainly still true, we are seeing business from all sorts of industries adopting user-centric software platforms for internal applications as well as customer-facing business applications.  Below are examples of how you could implement some business-oriented experiences in Silverlight:

The Patient Journey Demonstrator 

PatientJourneyDemonstratorThumbnail[1]

 
Industry Vertical:  Healthcare
Focus:  Internal LOB Application


The Patient Journey Demonstrator is a Silverlight 2 application built by the Microsoft Common User Interface team to demonstrate how Silverlight can positively enable patient management in healthcare scenarios.
Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
Focus:  Customer-Facing Application


The Woodgrove Financial demo application (built by Infusion)was built to provide inspiration as to how you might be able to deliver a rich experience to customers using an online banking system.  While it is likely that an online banking site would not be built entirely in Silverlight, it is very interesting to see how a bank might implement important pieces of functionality with Silverlight to create a customer-focused experience.
Woodgrove Financial

WoodgroveBankingThumbnail[1]

Stock Trader Reference Application

StockTraderThumbnail[1]

Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
Focus:  Customer & Internal LOB Application


The Stock Trader Reference Application is included in the Microsoft Patterns & Practices team’s Composite Application Guidance for WPF and Silverlight.  This application is meant to be a demonstration of the types of applications you can build using a composite architecture (i.e.:  modularizing your UI into components to make it more manageable, maintainable and reusable).
Industry Vertical:  Manufacturing
Focus:  Internal LOB Application


The Factories Map application demo built by ComponentOne is a mashup using Virtual Earth, Silverlight (via the Virtual Earth Silverlight Map Control) and internal data to provide a visualization of where a company’s assets are located worldwide as well as provide efficiency and productivity data for its factories.  The power of this demo is in the ability for solution providers to provide effective data visualization solutions at the fingertips of employees.
Factories Map

FactoriesMapThumbnail[1]

Stock Portfolio

StockPortfolioThumbnail[1]

Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
Focus:  Customer & Internal LOB Application


Another demo application delivered by ComponentOne is the Stock Portfolio application.  The scenario to this application is similar to that of the Stock Trader Reference Application above, but the implementation is different and shows how you can deliver an effective user interface for stock traders through data visualization and UI customization through various different and disparate data feeds.

These are just a few of the LOB-focused applications we are seeing built in Silverlight.  If you have an LOB application built in Silverlight that you would like to share, please let me know by commenting!

Paul

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  • Unfortunately, too many glitzy samples are long on eye-candy and short on real data handling. Is it too much for a pretty UI to actually *save* a record?

    As a contrast, check out my free video series on Creating a Silverlight 2 Data Form! The eight episodes take you through the steps of doing realistic CRUD operations. My application's user interface may not 'rock', but the app does show down-to-earth coding in VB for beginners.

    Videos: http://cid-5ba3283f955d0a0f.profile.live.com/Lists/cns!5BA3283F955D0A0F!118/?lc=1033

    Source code: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/SLDataForm

    Required (free) resources: http://cid-5ba3283f955d0a0f.profile.live.com/Lists/cns!5BA3283F955D0A0F!368/

  • Hi, Ken.  All good points and well-taken.  Of course most LOB apps today ("glitzy" or not) require some sort of transaction handling and this capability certainly is not lost by building user interfaces that are not necessarily traditional.

    While some of these applications may not necessarily work in true transaction mode (they are demo apps, after all), the intent is to show that you can build custom user experiences that cater to the audience that the application is built for rather than settle for traditional user interface constructs that in many case limit the productivity of the employee or customer using the application.

    There are many great applications being built internally by widely recognized companies in Canada and across all verticals using UI enhancement technologies such as WPF and Silverlight.  The problem with these applications is that many of them are custom-built and live behind the firewall of these companies so they can't be shown.  

    In many cases, these apps are using strong visual enhancements and significant UI customizations that Silverlight and WPF give you the freedom to build.  But they aren't doing it to make the application look shiny, glitzy or have a "cool factor" to them.  They are using these technologies to gain a competitive advantage by streamlining the UI and catering the experience to the user, making him/her much more productive than they would otherwise be using traditional user interfaces.  Productivity often translates to lowering the bottom line and also enhances the ability of the employee to provide better service to the customer.  That's why I see these types of user interfaces becoming much more prevalent in business today and becoming a key enabler for these companies in gaining an edge on the competition.

    -Paul

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