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Made in IBM Labs: IBM Unveils User-Friendly Web Application Development Tool for Non-Techies, Small Businesses


IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced a free Web application development tool made in IBM labs with a simple user-interface to allow people without technical skills in small businesses and other organizations to create applications that solve daily tasks.

Created at IBM’s Haifa Research Laboratory in Israel, the IBM® Development Engagement Service (DevEngage) requires no programming skills and is a visually appealing, user-friendly, interactive tool designed to develop online forms for any small business’ tasks, including Human Resources, Finance, Sales or Marketing, that automate common manual processes, such as the collection and analysis of information. By giving users easy tools to create simple applications themselves, this eliminates wait time required when a typical employee issues an application development request through an IT department.

Unlike application wikis which require technology-savvy users and do not address workflow or data storage in a database, the IBM Developer Engagement Service is designed to appeal to the average business user. It requires no elaborate instructions, cumbersome download or installation of any new software, enabling users to focus on the problem at hand. A typical user has limited experience using software “wizards,” documents, spreadsheets and forms, and knows how to create items in a “canvas” and later rearrange them using basic drag and drop functions.

“This new application development tool will let users with no software development expertise skill create online forms with ease that complete routine tasks,” said Gal Shachor, project lead for this technology at the IBM Research Lab in Haifa. “IBM wants to ensure users that small and medium-sized businesses are able to capitalize on modern Web 2.0 technologies in a simple, user-friendly way.”

“As more business activities move online, there are more occasions to ask the IT Department for help,” said Glen Gould, Director, Small-to-Mid-Size Business at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. “But if you have to wait a lengthy period for support, or you don’t have an IT department, you can save either time or money -- and a lot of aggravation -- by quickly creating your own online forms for just about anything.”

An example of this useful technology in action might be at a small business where lunch is ordered every day from a local restaurant. The office manager collects orders and at the end of the week subtracts lunch costs from each employee’s salary. This application could be used to easily build a Web-based form where each employee fills in his lunch order every day. The application could calculate the weekly or monthly costs and keep everything orderly. On the flip side, the restaurant owner may want people to be able to order food online -- even without actually purchasing the food. This way the restaurant owner can prepare the right food on time and know to whom the food should be delivered.

Another example involves an onsite operations manager interested in keeping track of renovation costs. If the user wants to collect price quotes from various contractors, she would normally update a spread sheet every time new information is gathered. Putting this information on the Web with IBM Development Engagement Service allows anyone to access the file and update it, collect price quotes, analyze the information or collect references -- all in one central location without having to know how to program.

IBM Development Engagement Service builds on Web 2.0 attributes and uses technologies such as AJAX, a Web development technique for creating interactive Web applications. Users develop the online forms over the Web on any Internet browser. The tool generates applications using common metaphors and practices to automate routine tasks, such as form processing where forms are distributed, filled and then entered into a database. The user is taken through a series of “wizard” pages that let him specify details such as an application name, behavior, look and feel.

Once the user defines the application, the definition is submitted to the tool’s Java™-based server-side back-end where the application is constructed. At this point the back-end uses templates to generate the application and returns to the user a URL, pointing the user to the Web-accessible online form.

IBM Development Engagement Service is available as a hosted technology on IBM alphaWorks Services, which was established to allow early adopters access to emerging software services from IBM research and development labs. By eliminating the need to download and install IBM Development Engagement Service, IBM is engaging the community as early as possible in the development process, and inviting them to participate in its evolution. Users can start building their own applications with this free IBM technology by going to:

About Made in IBM Labs

Made in IBM Labs is an initiative to drive the most promising emerging technologies and to harness IBM’s considerable technical talent to work collaboratively with clients on real-world business challenges and opportunities. Clients benefit from working directly with IBM’s technical experts and resources, gaining innovations that are more targeted to their specific needs. IBM Labs also benefit by acquiring first-hand knowledge of client technology, business processes and challenges that they can learn from to spur further innovation for future products and services. For more information, please visit


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