For many years, companies have struggled to find a data collection technique that crosses platforms, facilitates data analysis, handles both structured and unstructured data, and enables business processes. In contrast to many IT challenges where there are an abundance of tools but no clear approach, in this case the tools were just not up to par. Sure you could create forms using Word and/or Adobe PDF’s – you could even allow users to fill in the blanks online and print or email the form – but actually validating that data, extracting the data out of the form for analysis or launching workflows has proved to be both cumbersome and expensive. As a result, custom web pages have often been used to facilitate simple data collection – requiring specialized programming skills and valuable IT resources for what seemed to be rudimentary requests.
Enter Microsoft Office InfoPath – Microsoft’s answer to data collection challenges. InfoPath is a power user/novice developer tool that enables forms development based on an open XML format. The benefits of InfoPath are numerous:
- Ease of use and development
- Data capture and validation
- Online and offline support (via InfoPath Form Services, Outlook or the InfoPath client)
- Integration with both input and output data sources including databases, SharePoint lists and web services
- Ability to save as XML, print or send as an email
- Integration with Windows SharePoint Services and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server
By integrating with SharePoint, InfoPath offers an enterprise-level forms solution complete with business process automation and legacy software integration. Additionally, you are able to build your project teams with professionals of varying skills and levels of experience.
The InfoPath client (designer and viewer) is available as a stand-alone product or is part of the Microsoft Office Professional Plus, Enterprise and Ultimate suites. The client version integrates with Windows SharePoint Services which is included free with the Windows Server operating system. InfoPath Form Services is part of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Enterprise Edition.
Contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager to learn more or discuss the benefits of implementing this technology within your environment.