09 November 2005

The Web
Business Today

Interactive digital documents

Noel Abela

At the heart of today’s IT industry are online services. Our goal in the IT industry is to enable companies to continually enhance the level of service to their customers while reducing their overheads. Modern enterprises require their staff to dedicate their energy and resources to execute their business plans rather than waste their time on routine unproductive activities.
Over the past few years many excellent online services have cropped up on the Internet and no doubt a good number of people are making good use of them. Many have come to integrate them into their daily life. A fine example is online banking.
These online services are characteristically multi-tiered and complex solutions that almost always translate into expensive solutions. Let us not overlook their high maintenance costs too. Their yield must be valuable enough to render the whole project feasible. Moreover, exposing the data online poses a security risk that is also very costly to manage. This technology is suitable for large projects with sensitive data but smaller companies can automate many of their tasks without the complexity and cost of fully-fledged application server based systems.
In smaller projects where the information exchanged cannot jeopardize national security, the old faithful email protocol can be used instead of web servers and application servers to provide effective customer-based online services. This can be achieved by having an email robot accepting requests from authorized email addresses for particular information or to perform specific tasks such as data collection. With this in mind we, at NLA Systems, have designed and produced cyberPOST2 and its integrated robot called Zigineeze. The user can design his own document templates using a popular open-source report writer called Jasper Reports (work on Crystal Reports compatibility is in progress) or a simple plain text or HTML file. Output can be text, HTML or PDF. The users can also develop their own custom applications through an XML interface and by invoking their own Java plugged-in class methods.
With cyberPOST2, many applications are possible and are only limited by one’s imagination. To name but a few, one can implement insurance and other renewal notices, regular reports to the sales team, payroll pay slips and FS3 reports, debtor statements that enable requests for instant copies of invoices, credit notes and receipts and also seminar invitations that enable guests to book their seat from within the invitation document itself. The minority of the recipients, who are still not connected to the Internet, can still be reached by means of a bulk fax process.
An advantage of such a paradigm is that one can go directly to one’s audience rather than wait for them to log in thus ensuring a higher response. Another advantage is that while real-time information is served and incoming information is updated online, the actual database is not available on the Internet and hence is not subject to attacks. The implications are huge.
Noel Abela is a director at NLA Systems

Business Today is published weekly on Wednesdays.
Website is updated weekly on Thursdays
Copyright © MediaToday., Malta
Editor: Kurt Sansone
Business Today, MediaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
Tel: (356) 2138 2741 | Fax: (356) 2138 5075 | E-mail