Partners Help Army Suit Up For E-Form Technology
The PureEdge 8x product from the Victoria, British Columbia-based company and digital signature technology from Silanis, St. Laurent, Manitoba, are enabling the Army to switch to an all-electronic document creation, approval and archiving system as it gradually retires its mammoth, legacy paper trail, said Greg O'Connell, director of government accounts at PureEdge.
Customer interest in converting to digital document management has increased proportionately with advancements in e-form technology, O'Connell said. This trend has put PureEdge on quite a good run of late, deploying e-form networks for customers such as the Omaha Woodmen Life Insurance Society, one of the largest fraternal benefit societies in the United States.
PureEdge's solutions have also found a home in the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, a cooperative of 1,300 real estate brokerages in Washington state that hosts Web applications for its members. In both cases, PureEdge's PureXML e-form technology improved workflow efficiency by eliminating cumbersome paper documents and reducing redundant data input.
Under the guidance of the Army's Forms Content Management Program (FCMP), which seeks to reduce the waste, latency and physical storage space associated with paper documents, the Army's Enterprise Information Management (EIM) integration team spearheaded the project.
Running atop IBM's DB2 database infrastructure, PureEdge 8x is being integrated with the ApproveIt Desktop, ApproveIt XHTML Server and other Silanis products to allow documents to be signed and passed from one department to the next without allowing those in the communication chain to see comments and notes made by others, O'Connell said.
"Being able to lock out certain portions of an XML form as it passes from one department to the other is inherent in PureEdge 8x," O'Connell said. "The security piece is basically a modular component applied to the form that allows any standard version of a digital signature to integrate with it."
Silanis' tools also provide document validation and overwrite prevention, as well as a way to overcome the challenge of not having a common document format, said Tommy Petrogiannif, president of Silanis.
"We add content that is relevant to the document approval process, thus validating the process itself. For example, I might have signed off on a document, but when my immediate supervisor signs off on the same document it could invalidate my earlier signature," Petrogiannif said.
Silanis technology also enables the Army to approve electronic documents in their native format, he said. "There is no common document format," Petrogiannif said. "You have Word documents, Excel [and] other mediums. But we are Switzerland to this problem: One ballpoint pen to sign any paper from anywhere in the world."
The EIM team selected the three companies because of their standards-based approach to electronic document management, and much of the work being done by EIM staff is coming off without a hitch, said Theresa O'Neil, director of content management at IBM, Armonk, N.Y.
"What the Army had been building with its document flow was siloed applications, and they were all forms-based," O'Connell said. "The concept we brought with [PureEdge] 8x was to have a common, integrated and repeatable document process that could be rolled out over time without disruption."
With the multitude of users and documents in its system, avoiding disruption as the new electronic document platform is deployed is something the EIM group sees as a top priority. It will spend about a decade converting the Army's legacy document system to the new platform, O'Neil said.
"The implementation is beginning now and will continue over time," she said. "The project is huge."