For over 15 years now, the solutions built with the software products from the IBM Lotus Forms team have been based on a simplifying system architecture depicted below. This architecture uses a sophisticated, intelligent XML document as the unit of information that flows among collaborators in a business process.
To support such high-value intelligent interaction, the document has a numberof layers as depicted below. These layers have different responsibilities. Foundationally, the document format is an XML format, which means it is based on thestandard that allows introspection of the document to inject or extract information.This also means the full power of XML signatures can be brought to bear to meet archival and security requirements, particularly non-repudiation of the transactioneffected by the business process based on the document. The XForms layer allows representation of a rich interaction layer for collection of structured data content.
Our work on Lotus Forms has been focused on the collection of structured contentneeded to drive a transaction through a business process, and this has included defining the XML vocabulary called XFDL to allow application developers to build thehigh precision user interface needed to drive interaction with end-users.
But consider for a moment the great number of situational applications that areconstantly being created and deployed around the globe that are based on the requirement to have a mix of structured data and unstructured content. In other words, consider the case ofoffice documents with high business value. We're talking purchase contracts, supplieragreements, insurance polices, RFP responses, financial arrangements, and the like. These are documents that can make effective use of multipage free-flowing unstructuredcontent and graphics interspersed with fill-in-the-blanks content for names, dates, addresses, monetary values, milestones and so forth.
These documents support an important class of live, interactive applications in which multiple collaborators work together to solve a semi-structured content problem.The OASIS Technical Committee for the Open Document Format, in their wisdom, incorporatedthe XForms model into ODF, and this delightful feat of standards reuse allows us to reap the benefits of ODF's unstructured content creation features together with the interactive structured data collection and both the data and document submission facilities of XForms 1.1 at the same time. The layered document picture looks pretty much the same, except as you can see below the on-the-glass presentationlayer is ODF, and otherwise the overall business process system architecture is the same as depicted above.
The result of these considerations is a focus on Interactive Office Documentsas a strategic means of going Beyond Office, i.e. going beyond the traditional usage patternsfor office documents that have become entrenched due to the office document limitations of the past and instead solving the real business problems that cause people to select the useof office documents in the first place. Using XForms 1.1, office documents based on ODF can be first class participants in collaborative business processes.