- 4GL-like language
- Active data objects
- Procedural logic
- Nested "IF" statements
- Forms "repository"
- Automatic path-of-authority
- LINK Facility
- Event-driven logic
Many organizations would like to automate more of their business processes, but
haven't because of programming back-log, or because the cost to design an application
appears more costly than the expected return on programming investment.
The Active E-Forms (AEF) module changes all that. By providing an intelligent form-routing
capability, AEF allows the prototyping and deployment of "mail-enabled applications"
in a quick and efficient manner. With Active E-Forms as part of their electronic
mail, companies have reduced their operating costs and turnaround time on paperwork.
An Active E-Form can be designed with logic to query on-line databases, update and
verify fields, and do validation checking. For this reason, using an Active E-Form
is often easier than processing other CICS applications because EMS provides much
of the information for field entry automatically.
A form can be selected for use, get partially filled in, and then be refiled back
into the form repository allowing a user to only be concerned with filling in variable
Features and Benefits
The 4GL-like language of Active E-Forms allows users to define variables, screens,
and procedural logic within the form itself.
Active Data Objects
An Active E-Form is an "active data object," a self-contained unit of
both data and instructions. As the form flows from approval level to approval level,
the data object is actually what is moving. When an Active E-Form data objective
receives final approval, it is transformed into a standard EMS electronic form,
which is stored and sent just like any regular EMS mail message.
Active E-Forms are "intelligent forms" in that they have multi-step logic
programmed within their data structure. This procedural logic controls the path
of the E-Form from one approval level to the next. This procedural logic can either
direct a query to a database, or check on "approval limit" information
stored in the EMS directory.
Nested "IF" Statements
The "IF" statement is used to set a condition and, depending on the outcome,
perform one or another branch of instructions. These statements can be nested to
twenty levels deep.
The EMS user accesses a master forms cabinet and chooses a form to "launch."
Users are given a display of those forms they are authorized to launch within their
The forms repository will only display to the user those forms that he/she is authorized
to launch. EMS users with higher levels of AEF approval authority can use the NEXT
command to select a different path of cabinets. This is useful where a particular
"class" of manager or an employee designated as a surrogate user is authorized
to review forms pending approval.
The LINK command can be used to invoke a CICS Command Level sub-program to perform
specialized processing on passed variables.
To allow procedures to be embedded into the form, event-driven logic is provided
to control the routing process. Examples of such logic are: "If this form isn't
approved by December 29th, send a notification back to the sender" or "as
soon as this form is approved, notify the finance department manager."
The potential uses of Active E-Forms within any organization are limitless. Many
common forms-based processes such as credit approvals, purchase requisitions, capital
appropriation requests, expense reports, and sales order processing are ripe for
this kind of automation.
Amortization Schedule Requests
Prior to using Active E-Forms, a bank requested printed amortization schedules for
customer loans, and these took a number of days to obtain. First, the request had
to be sent in to data processing. MIS personnel had to key in the parameters of
the loan, run a program on the mainframe, and then print the amortization schedule
which was mailed back to the branch office and forwarded on to the customer. Now
the bank uses an Active E-Form which is filled out by the branch loan officer, the
E-Form logic automatically triggers the submission of a job which is run on the
mainframe, and the results are returned by EMS to the loan officer's workstation
where it can be printed locally. What used to take days now takes minutes.
As part of its research request system, another bank uses Active E-Forms. When a
customer requests additional information about a disputed transaction, such a request
ultimately gets handled by the research department at headquarters. This group works
on a LAN with sophisticated workstations providing visual access to microfilm and
microfiche. The local branch initiates a "research request" form which
is automatically routed to a mailbox belonging to the research group. The mailbox
is polled several times each day and any forms and messages downloaded to the LAN.
The research group then retrieves the requested information, making hard copy where
necessary. The form is returned to the local branch informing them of the status
of their request and when to expect hard copy to arrive at the branch.
Time Card Processing
An aerospace company uses Active E-Forms for its time card system. Each employee
selects his/her time card from a cabinet, and updates it at the end of the day.
The form prompts the employee for the required information, performs validation
checks, and computes elapsed time intervals automatically. The company has discovered
that data and calculations handled through an Active E-Form are much more accurate
and consistent than the prior manual time card system. When the employee invokes
the APPROVE function, this launches the form up to the departmental manager's
level for approval. After managerial approvals are applied, the form is converted
to data and entered into the CICS batch job stream for processing.
Active E-Forms Schematic
This flow is typical of an Active E-Form intelligent routing application:
- Step 1: A customer telephones a supplier company with an order for product.
- Step 2: Upon receiving the telephone order, an electronic forms "repository"
is accessed by the salesperson where the relevant "order form" is filled
out, and launched. The "link" command within the form checks data in a
CICS application (inventory) and provides information about inventory levels for
the product specified. The logic of the Active E-Form automatically routes it to
the Credit Department if the order is for more than a pre-determined dollar value,
or on to shipping if less than that amount.
- Step 3: When received by Credit, accounts receivable data has already been
checked and entered into the form, triggering a second decision: approved orders
are automatically forwarded to Shipping for processing while rejected orders are
routed to the Credit manager for appropriate action.
- Step 4: When received by Shipping, inventory data is verified once more,
and a pick-list generated. The Active E-Form generates either a fax or mailed hard
copy notification to the customer of expected ship date. The Active E-Form forwards
itself to the Billing Department.
- Step 5: When received by Billing, a printed invoice is generated off of
the form and the accounts receivable database is updated. Depending upon the logic
within the Active E-Form, the customer may receive the invoice by fax or by mailed
In this example, the only hard copy to exchange hands was from the vendor to the
customer in the form of a final ship date notification and/or invoice.