Application development is a unique combination of art and science. Today’s announcement from Salesforce.com and Adobe introducing the free Adobe Developer Toolkit for Force.com is a good example - combining Adobe’s deep understanding of design with Salesforce's powerful platform-as-as-service model so developers can build innovative and visually appealing on-demand applications.
The Adobe Developer Toolkit is a new set of tools and services that streamline the process of creating customized rich user interfaces for delivery via the web. It allows developers to create on-demand applications that work without an Internet connection. The toolkit connects Adobe’s Flex and AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), two of the leading rich internet application (RIA) environments, with Salesforce's Force.com platform. This gives Flex developers access to the Force.com web services APIs, so they can make data in a Force.com database available offline.
CIOs and development organizations need to deliver users a wider set of on-demand applications that require very rich client interfaces and/or offline functionality. These have traditionally been two of the biggest challenges for developers of on-demand applications.
Appirio has been an early adopter of various front end on-demand development paradigms, including Adobe Flex and Visual Force. We use these technologies in a number of ways, for example:
- To create user interfaces for call centers - where a high volume of calls means that saving a few clicks can add up to thousands of hours a year
- To develop interfaces for the iPhone - where the user expects a very specific interaction style that works the same as other applications
- To design custom applications for a very specific purpose - like the cinema management application we have written about previously
- Even to create applications for our own internal use (yes, we eat our own dog food here) such as our Professional Services Automation (PSA) application
The Appirio Professional Services Automation (PSA) application enables professional services organizations to track, manage and reconcile a large collection of projects. Appirio originally developed the PSA application to visualize and manage our various projects, resources, timelines, skills and assignments, and at the time there was not a native Force.com application available on AppExchange that offered these capabilities. While you could use Force.com to manage the respective data, workflows and reports, Flex was what enabled us to create a single visual interface that could both increase individual user productivity and provide clear visibility into the status of projects.
This Flex-based scheduling tool brings our PSA, which is built entirely on the Force.com platform, close to functional par with pure-play on-demand PSA vendors at a fraction of the price. This neat little component (shown below) lets managers drag-and-drop projects, lay out an entire consulting team's assignments on a single color-coded grid, and double-click to drill down for more details. This makes consulting managers more productive - and smarter. If the result is just an increase of a few percentage points in utilization, the financial payback will be dramatic.
Here are a few screenshots of the Appirio PSA application and our Salesforce interface on the iPhone. For those interested in participating in the current beta program for our PSA application, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Screenshot #1: This is a high-level view of our PSA application, which lays out the entire consulting team's assignments on a single color-coded grid.
Screenshot #2: This view of the PSA application shows how individuals and managers can double-click to drill down for more detail.
Screenshot #3: Example of a Visual Force application on the iPhone showing the apartment floor plan for a real estate agent.