a. Imaging Systems
Records retention requirements may call for keeping the original transaction document (form), or a copy of it, for some specified period of time. In lieu of retaining the space-consuming paper forms, an imaging system is often employed, through which a photographic copy is retained either digitally or on film.
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b. Forms Composition
Forms composition, whether in paper or electronic format, is facilitated through the use of software products specifically intended for that purpose. Such products may provide the tools necessary for managing exact spacing, insertion of text and graphics, field mapping, and the ultimate interface with users, printers, servers and other application software, such as databases.
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c. Forms Automation
Forms automation software may be as narrow in its function as simply supplying a catalog or portal through which users may obtain the forms they need. Or, it may be much broader in scope, including form specifications, a request channel for new or revised forms, catalogs, form- group data, forms kits, inventory control, deployment schemes, costs, development of metrics regarding form users and usage patterns, and various additional reporting functions.
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Communication of information is an integral function of electronic forms. Managing the various methodologies used to transmit that data to the appropriate recipients is accomplished through messaging technology.
1. Vendor Independent Messaging
Vendor Independent Messaging (VIM) provides a generic path, not associated with any specific software product or technology, for moving data from sender to receiver.
2. Messaging Application Programming
When it is appropriate to transmit information collected on forms to various recipients or associated business applications for further processing, the needed methodologies and mechanics are established and implemented through messaging application programming.
3. Messaging Handling Systems
When completed electronic forms are to be converted to email or in some other way made available to other systems for further processing, software is needed to manage those processes. That software is referred to as a message handling system (MHS).
A database is a repository where the data collected by business forms is recorded, organized and manipulated into useful information. Databases may also serve as the source of known, previously collected data that can be added automatically to a form to help complete a transaction. Whether formatted as stand-alone tables or more complex relational interpretations, databases serve to provide usable meaning to otherwise disparate data elements.
1. Open Database Connectivity
Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) is a standard method for third-party programs to access common databases.
2. Structured Query Language
Structured Query Language (SQL) provides a standardized method for extracting and reporting useable and meaningful information from a database.
Software that is shared by multiple members of a working unit is called groupware. It supports online collaboration for teams, projects & communities.
Workflow is 1) a sequence of processes (automated or manual) which are subject to specified business rules; and 2) the analysis and optimization of business processes. Completing a form is usually only the beginning of a longer process with varying steps that justify the collection of data and supply the results to one or more systems that are then able to make use of the information. Studying existing workflows often expose hidden opportunities for improvement by merging, eliminating, or reassigning process steps. By using such studies, processes are often clarified, speeded up, strengthened and their costs reduced.
h. Electronic Commerce
A natural extension of the capabilities of electronic forms is their use as the facilitators of electronic commerce – buying and selling goods and services electronically – usually through the Internet. Special care must be applied to the analysis and design phases when developing forms that are to be used in electronic commerce to assure that all necessary and required functions are adequately served. Security, mathematical calculations, electronic signatures, database interfaces, and encryption may be individually or severally appropriate.
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i. Security and Encryption
Security (prevention of data tampering by a third party) and encryption (encoding the data to require the appropriate key for access) are safeguards that are usually required for electronic commerce and may be needed in other environments. Various techniques, some hardware-based and some software-based, are available to support these challenges.
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Depending upon implementation parameters, the form may need to be deployed in more than one format (as multimedia) – that is, as a paper form and as an electronic form – to facilitate its use in disparate situations and environments.
k. Document Management Systems
Document management systems are used to organize and track form deployment, availability, usage, revision, version control and system interface points.
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