All about Adobe LiveCyle on Adobe Business Exchange 2009
Posted by Tim Bertens on 23/02/2009
Best speaker of the day was a comic
I have to admit I'm not the world's greatest presenter myself, but honestly I found that the quality of some of the speakers was very low. One guy admitted that his daughter fell asleep while he was rehearsing his presentation and I must say he also got me too. Luckily there are always exceptions: the keynote speaker from Gartner e.g. (I forgot his name). When I listen to these kinds of presentations I always have the feeling that I heard everything what is told many times before, but they always are able to grab my attention and to keep it till the end.
Another very good presentation was the one from Ronny Van de Maele from iDA-MediaFoundry (http://www.ida-mediafoundry.be/) about their project 'e-KickOff'. e-KickOff is an extranet application for the Belgian Football Association. I had a chat with him afterwards and he demoed me some very interesting stuff.
The speaker of the day award however should go to Dirk Denoyelle (http://www.dirkdenoyelle.com/), from time to time he was really, really funny and I had a very good laugh. His Gard'ner presentation, the 'Michel Dardenne'-speech commenting the presentation of the MinFin project manager and especially the performance management presentation at the end. Always to the point and very creative as he made up some parts while sitting in the audience during the presentations. It must be very hard to do, but the result was really great!
Is Adobe going for the business section?
When I received the invitation I must admit I almost threw it away. As you might know I'm not really a daily user of of graphical software myself and therefore I initially thought they just got my name from the internet somewhere because I'm related to a webagency. We all know Photoshop, Illustration, InDesign, Flash, Flex and things like that, but ABE2009 was not about graphical software at all.
Without me noticing it Adobe apparently shifted into the business applications, with a whole suite in place. From the Adobe website: “Adobe LiveCycle® ES (Enterprise Suite) software is an integrated server solution that blends data capture, information assurance, document output, process management, and content services to help you create and deliver rich and engaging applications that reduce paperwork, accelerate decision-making, and help ensure regulatory compliance”
Howly...., what do they exactly mean by that? To put in really easy words LiveCycle allows you to output and distribute data in a secure way, to provide you with an input path for data using userfriendly environments like PDF or rich internet applications and to structure your work- and dataflows towards your existing backend systems and people using the content provided in those environments. Hmmm, I don't know if that made it any easier, maybe a schema can help:
The Adobe LifeCyle Suite consist out of 5 product types that extend existing technologies like PDF, XML, HTML, Ajax, Flash and Flex towards your internal existing Enterprise Applications. Al these technologies are cross-platform and cross device supported in various versions of Acrobat Reader, Webbrowsers, Flex and AIR-plugins. These technologies, together with their enablers provide a method of handling data-input and output in a very rich way. Depending on the technology used it goes from digital documents, over rich web-applications in a browser to complete applications run from internet data but non-distinguishable with normal desktop applications
Screenshot from an AIR application by eBay
Products within LiveCycle suite
The products within the LiveCycle Suite are:
- Adobe LiveCycle Forms ES
- Adobe LiveCycle Reader® Extensions ES
- Adobe LiveCycle Barcoded Forms ES
- Adobe LiveCycle Data Services ES
- Adobe LiveCycle Rights Management ES
- Adobe LiveCycle Digital Signatures ES
- Adobe LiveCycle PDF Generator ES
- Adobe LiveCycle PDF Generator 3D ES
- Adobe LiveCycle Output ES
- Adobe LiveCycle Production Print ES
- Adobe LiveCycle Process Management ES
- Adobe LiveCycle Business Activity Monitoring ES
- Adobe LiveCycle Content Services ES
- Adobe LiveCycle ES Connectors for ECM
A possible use-case
Imagine you own a very successful company that sells thousands of contracts every year (e.g. you're in Insurances), you have a vast amount of representatives going over to the client's home making new deals. One of the possibilities to reduce the paperflow and very time-consuming manual handling of documents is using a few products out of the LiveCycle Suite. In this use-case I assume you already have 'paper contracts' with all fields and logic in. By logic I mean those kinds of forms where you see 'If you answered YES please go to question 11d, if you answered NO please go to question 25a'. I bet you know these kinds of forms you always loose track of where you exactly are...
I also assume your backend processes are fully automated, this is: you have an application to manage your contracts. This application is used for data entering new contracts, for sending out welcome letters, invoices, managing customers contacts, etcetera. Although the largest amount of processes and the biggest complexity is in that backoffice application, there is also a lot of room for improvement for one of the most labour intensive processes in your company; getting the new contracts in your backend system. As always there are multiple solutions to this problem:
- you could develop an webportal allowing your salespeople (or even your customer themselves) fill-in the new contracts online and integrate that application in your back-end systems
- you could start using OCR (optical character recognition) to convert the handwriting on the contracts to 'real' data and feed that data into your back-end applications
But you could also go down this track:
- you supply your salespeople with laptops and if real-time processing is required a wireless data-connection to Internet
- you create a digital version of your contract using LiveCycle forms and with LiveCycle Reader extensions you enable these documents to be used in an intelligent way in the free Adobe Reader that is available for any platform. By intelligent I mean that these PDF's can be filled in, data validation can be done (if required and available even using online services at your end), a process-flow for filling in the form is integrated (in other words no more remarks on your forms like 'If you answered YES please go to question 11d, if you answered NO please go to question 25a')
- You allow your salespeople to get a digital signature of your customer on the contract right away by just using the regular Belgian Identity card and a compatible card reader. This assures you the contract is officially signed and it assures the customer that nothing can be changed any more on the contract (or a least not without him or her resigning the document).
- Your salesperson can now submit the document online or do that when he returns in the office. Since he has filled in the details on the contract, the data entry of the contract is actually already done.
- If your customer doesn't have a eID-card yet or is a foreigner, you could print the document at the premises of the client or send it to him via email. The customer would then just sign the contract by hand and send the document back by post, fax or email. In that case you could encode all the data entered details in a 2D barcode and put that in the document for later processing. A 2D barcode is a 2 dimensional barcode (in opposite of the regular 1D barcode that is used e.g. for putting EAN codes on the products) that can contain loads of information and has very strong correction algorithms built-in to make sure that the data that it contains can still be read even when the document is e.g. being faxed.
An example of an 2D barcode containing this information: Tim Bertens, Information Architect at http://www.bene.be
If you want to try to create a 2D barcode yourself, you can do it with this free online 2d barcode creator
- Once that information is at your office (digitally send through by your sales representative, send by email/fax by your customer) you can process the contract immediately and feed it into your Adobe LiveCycle Process Management ES, using the data entry information that is stored in the structured XML of the PDF file or by reading the 2D barcode that again contains the structured XML of the data that was entered by your salesperson. If the contract is send back by post it will have to go through a scanning device before you have access to data stored in that 2D barcode.
- As soon as that data hits your Process Management ES you can start a workflow that can be contract specific: eg. You mail a copy of the contract to the customer, you sent a confirmation email to your sales person, you insert the data of the contract into your backoffice application, you can send a task request to internal sales responsible for handling the further activation of the contract, etc.
Adobe has made a very important step in trying to get their applications and solutions in the kernel of their customer's companies. They've made a very intelligent use of the existing technologies (owned by them or not) to accomplish this. My feel is however that Adobe now steps into a very competitive and very business critical segment of the market. Segments that are dominated by very large players (e.g. SAP, Oracle, Microsoft) or by niche players that do a specific job very well (Kofax, AscentN and many others). I'm not sure if the market will adopt Adobe's suite very fast as Adobe is pretty new to this market and there are others that have similar solutions already but have more known for producing 'real' business software. Anyhow a very interesting suite that requires your attention if you're looking for business automation in customer oriented processes.