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IBM's Web 2.0 Approach to E-Documents

IBM on Tuesday released Lotus Forms 3.0, the company's first Web-based application that lets users create, manage, distribute and digitally sign electronic forms through a Web browser without requiring additional software downloads.

Lotus Forms 3.0, which updates its Workplace Forms application, accelerates the integration with third-party software and back-end systems. This makes it easier for companies to generate electronic documents throughout their organizations to share with, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission to meet various accounting, compliance and regulatory requirements.

It includes a wizard-based interface that allows user to pre-populate forms with existing system information that can be tailored as narrowly or as broadly as the user wants, reducing the likelihood of data-entry errors and generally eliminating the redundancy of data input for all types of electronic forms.

"There's a tremendous amount of value and cost savings that can be realized by automating your forms processes," Greg O'Connell, government forms sales leader for IBM's Lotus Forms 3.0 group, told InternetNews.com. "Since the Internet has become such a viable medium for conducting business, we now have the ability through this technology to theoretically remove the need for paper altogether."

E-signature software provider Silanis Technology's ApproveIt application supports Lotus Forms 3.0, providing a secure and verifiable digital signature for companies exchanging electronics documents in the government, insurance, financial services, health care and consumer manufacturing industries.

"Anytime you have a requirement for a large-scale, mission-critical process like financial filings with the SEC or court filings or export licensing documents, the submission piece is critical," O'Connell said. "Lotus Forms 3.0 gives companies the ability to submit any type of attachment and secure it with a digital signature without having to download Adobe or any other application client."

Lotus Forms 3.0's interface provides the dashboard for users to integrate their e-forms process in a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)  , replacing dozens of individual applications with one Web-based service.

"You build it once and reuse it multiple times," O'Connell said. "It gives you one centralized infrastructure where you can collapse all these silo-based applications and processes and track all these through the same platform."

IBM competes with the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Verity and startups like StreamServe in the e-form software market.