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Use InfoPath 2010 to reduce the costs of forms development for enterprise business

As Steve Weissman of the Holly Group pointed out in two blog posts published in 2010, Forms, SharePoint & InfoPath: Perspectives for the Fiscally Responsible (Part 1) and Forms, SharePoint & InfoPath: Perspectives for the Fiscally Responsible (Part 2) cradle to grave lifecycle costs for the development of enterprise business forms can range as high as $75,000.00 (!): “The problem is that forms are simply too important and too expensive to shirk, ignore, or eliminate. Many enterprise solutions and most consumer-facing applications use them as front ends to databases, data presentation mechanisms, or both – and lifecycle costs (design à archiving) can be as high as $75,000 per form.”

We note that Steve does not provide a reference for his $75,000.00 cost claim, but we find this number to be plausible, when one considers the cost of developing applications for brand name database environments, whether from Oracle Corporation, Microsoft, SAP or IBM. Certainly, if one accepts Steve’s number as a starting point for a conversation about saving money, then it makes perfect sense to explore just how to save money on this activity by looking at Microsoft InfoPath 2010. Steve describes InfoPath 2010 as “Microsoft’s entry in the electronic forms sweepstakes,” “[s]teeped in XML” Steve notes that InfoPath 2010 includes some very useful features, including features that empower a user to “[q]uickly and efficiently create forms [while] minimiz[ing] training time”

We agree with Steve’s view. In fact, we’ve contributed to this effort to reduce training time with our own set of video tutorials on the product, InfoPath 2010 Training DVD. Focusing purely on computer operations via a highlighted cursor, and replete with text boxes filled with transcripts of audio instructions read by Asif Rehmani, an industry expert on this tool, our tutorial set equips users with all of the important techniques to build forms without code for the very same brand name databases mentioned above. But this time the development costs actually amount to no more than a mere fraction of the costs that would otherwise be incurred to develop database forms without InfoPath 2010.

Getting back to Steve’s post, we further agree with his point that InfoPath 2010 “[c]onnect[s] forms with line-of-business information and REST Web Services: presented as No. 9 on Redmond’s list, it probably should be positioned as No. 1 in terms of organizational value since it is the key to maintaining and leveraging the gobs of data contained in your various back-end systems. Forms-like interfaces have been used literally for decades to facilitate data input and data display, and making the capability more accessible to more people is promising indeed from a process/productivity standpoint.” We would add that by facilitating this connection, InfoPath 2010 can be utilized as a means to extract intelligence from enterprise business environments characterized by formidable line of business silos that would otherwise impede the collection of useful data for formulating business intelligence.

At a cost of just under $2K, an enterprise license to use or InfoPath 2010 training set is a bargain that can contribute to a highly efficient system of producting enterprise forms. Please either call us at (630) 786-7026, or Contact Us. We will be happy to discuss this topic at greater length.

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