Adobe has fleshed out its electronic forms strategy with the latest version of its Livecycle server platform, adding support for workflow management.
The Livecycle software integrates document services to automate people-centric processes. It is aimed at governments, financial services firms and manufacturers that need applications for creating, capturing and integrating information across the enterprise.
Gary Fry, managing director of Adobe Systems' enterprise division, said the Livecycle tool allowed users to define complex workflow using XML mapping to link form processing with back-end transactional systems.
He said one early adopter of the software had been developing workflow for human resources. The company, in the aerospace industry, needed a common process to allow staff to submit requests for holiday and HR privileges. It has been running intelligent documents through the Adobe forms management suite and passing the forms through the Adobe workflow engine based on predefined policies.
Livecycle now delivers visual assembly of process automation applications without the need for programming, Adobe said. The software also offers business activity monitoring, which allows users to view how business processes are running.
Automating forms handling is not a new concept, but Adobe is offering some of the capabilities of business process management, which links automated processes with manual processes.
However, Mike Thompson, principal research analyst at Butler Group, said, "Forms handling is a small part of true process management." Along with basic workflow, he said users needed electronic forms handling that could support human intervention and handle exceptions.
Adobe Livecycle is built on a common server architecture based on Java 2 Enterprise Edition and XML. It runs on BEA Weblogic, IBM Websphere and JBoss.
It includes a workflow designer and more than 50 Quick Process Action Components to help users build applications that automate document processes, such as routing tasks to a user, sending an e-mail, or integrating with backend systems. Adobe is licensing the software on a per-user or per CPU basis.
Adobe is also planning to offer documentation, support and pre-configured hosted trials to developers through the Livecycle Developer Center on its website. The programme gives developers access to Adobe Livecycle software, support for building custom applications and regular communications from the Adobe engineering and development teams.