Within IBM, there is an "Extreme Blue for Employees" program called Biztech, which promotes innovative development within IBM by funding special projects developed by teams that can come from all across IBM. Today, the 6th Biztech Showcase is being held at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Lab, Yorktown. It consists of 12 projects including ours.
Our project, which will be presented this afternoon, is called Dual Forms. To understand the basic business problem, suppose you have a complex office document such as a contract, a patent filing or a new supplier agreement. It will have many sections to fill out, some with precise information like names, supply codes, dates, milestones, deadlines, and payment amounts. These are things that need to be validated in order to prevent errors, or which may need to match with data stored elsewhere. However, other parts of the document will contain free flowing text, such as special terms and conditions. The document may also contain pie charts, bar graphs, or other rich content that serves as visual aids. The key here is that the document is complicated and hard to complete, which frustrates those who must collaborate to complete and results in costly delays in completion.
Now imagine you had a technology that could augment the office document completion experience with:
- wizard behaviors that take the user step-by-step through the fill process and help correct errors immediately
- automatically invoke web services of an SOA to obtain data during the fill experience, rather than making the user responsible to type in matching data.
- digital signature security so that the legally binding agreement can be made electronically rather than having to print, sign, fax, scan and store document images.
- automatic submission of completed documents to the back-end workflow system or the repository of executed legal agreements.
This is the domain of Dual Forms. The Lotus Forms technology provides the above benefits as well as the ability to enclose any other files within a Lotus Form. One such enclosure can be an ODF office document. Lotus Symphony is an implementation that runs under the Lotus Notes application platform as well as the underlying Lotus Expeditor application platform. In this project, we've created a Lotus Notes composite application that allows the Lotus Forms Viewer to run under Notes, including read/write access to the running form. The composite application also hosts the Lotus Symphony ODF editors at the same time.
Using this project, the end-user can get access within a single application to the capabilities of office documents AND the capabilities of Lotus Forms (wizards, help, web services, signatures, document submission to the business process). The underlying technology that allows the two rich document formats to interoperate is... XForms.