Overview: Plan InfoPath Forms Services (Office Forms Server)
Updated: May 21, 2009
Applies To: Office Forms Server 2007
In this article:
Using InfoPath Forms Services, you can publish form templates that can be opened either in Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 or rendered in a Web browser.
InfoPath Forms Services is a component of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and should not be confused with Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007, a separate product.
This technology requires specific server configuration, server resource and network bandwidth allocation, consideration of security and user management, and careful planning related to the deployment, accessibility, and management of form templates. You do not have to install InfoPath Forms Services separately, as it is installed with Windows SharePoint Services. In order to make the most effective use of InfoPath Forms Services, you need to do some planning. The planning tasks have been organized into articles to make it easier for you to find the planning information you need for each step.
"Forms" and "form templates" are separate entities. A form is an instance of a form template, invoked when the form is opened from a document library or when a Web page containing a form is opened. A form template is an .xsn file that resides on a server and contains the code that generates a form.
For example business scenarios for InfoPath Forms Services, see Scenario planning in this article.
InfoPath Forms Services planning articles
Before you begin designing form templates
Plan what form templates are needed This article helps you to plan what form templates you need to create. It also helps you understand which of your current forms can be imported and which must be recreated manually, and the factors that should be taken into account.
Plan for naming form templates This article helps you to establish a naming convention for form templates.
Planning form template design
Plan form template design infrastructure requirements Before you begin deploying form templates in an InfoPath Forms Services production environment, read this article to help you consider the server, security, and network requirements to support your deployment.
Plan custom form templates Read this article to help you develop custom form templates to address specific forms needs.
Plan server-side data connections needed for form templates This article describes how server-side data connections function when a form template is deployed, and it assists you with planning for the data connections you need.
Planning form template deployment
Plan deployment of form templates This article helps you to understand the deployment process for the two categories of browser-compatible form templates: user form templates and administrator-approved form templates.
Plan deployment of administrator-approved form templates Read this article to help you plan for the deployment of form templates that contain business logic such as a compiled, managed code DLL (form code); require full trust; or use a data connection that is managed by an administrator.
Planning server supportability and maintenance
Plan for upgrading form templates Read this article to help you plan for upgrading administrator-deployed form templates.
Plan for retiring form templates Read this article to help you plan for retiring form templates when they become obsolete.
Plan version control for form templates Read this article to help you plan for enabling version control, which causes document libraries to create a new version of the form template every time the template is edited and saved, preserving previous versions as defined by the administrator.
Plan for mobile device access to form templates Read this article to help you plan for providing access to browser-enabled forms from mobile devices such as handheld PDAs that support HTML, CHTML, or XHTML.
InfoPath Forms Services Best Practices Read this article for best practices for InfoPath Forms Services.
You need to carefully plan before you implement InfoPath Forms Services in your organization. You need to consider that InfoPath Forms Services can:
Integrate with other applications in Office SharePoint Server 2007.
Integrate with other systems such as e-mail.
Retrieve data from or push data to databases.
Several factors can make this process complex and challenging. Your organization should decide what purpose forms will serve in the enterprise. Forms can be critical business artifacts in many organizations.
Many organizations use scenario planning to make strategic decisions about how forms are used. The basic method is for a team to generate a scenario that incorporates known facts about the future. For example, the scenario can include the following:
Number of users
Location of users
Legacy system integration
This section contains some sample scenarios for the use of InfoPath Forms Services.
Scenario 1: Expense-Report Submission
A. Datum Corporation, a national computer equipment and IT services provider, sells computers, networking hardware, and IT service contracts. A. Datum Corporation has 10,000 employees in North America. Many A. Datum Corporation teams — including marketing, sales, and support consultants — incur and report work-related expenses. These teams represent about one third of the A. Datum workforce.
A. Datum Corporation has adopted mySAP ERP for its business data and operations. It wants to add InfoPath Forms Services to its environment to take advantage of data connections to its back-end systems. By deploying InfoPath Forms Services, A. Datum intends to benefit in the following ways:
Streamline the process of expense-report submission, review, approval, and reimbursement.
Increase data accuracy through data validation and business logic built into the form.
Enable expense reports to be completed online or offline.
Enforce corporate expense policy rules at the time of expense-report submission.
Provide immediate access to expense-report status and expense data.
In addition, A. Datum wants to leverage the advantages realized through Office SharePoint Server 2007 such as document management, team collaboration, and workflow features available with SharePoint sites. The corporation plans to connect the SharePoint sites to its SAP portal so that it can search and index the content along with its other business information.
Solution: Forms for internal use
The IT department in A. Datum Corporation is responsible for deploying and maintaining InfoPath Forms Services and connecting it to SAP. It is concerned with keeping its business-critical information available and secure. It is responsible for ensuring that the end-user experience is smooth and that response times are within acceptable limits. Time studies indicate that users take about 30 minutes to complete an expense report. To accommodate the new expense-reporting forms, the IT department is preparing to do the following:
Provide intranet access for employees accessing the forms within the corporate network.
Provide dial-up access to a remote access server for employees outside the corporate firewall.
Provide the Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 client for those employees who require offline capability.
Deploy this solution on a medium server farm.
Scenario 2: Insurance claims processing
A large organization introduces Office SharePoint Server 2007 into its environment to enable customers, insurance agents, and related businesses to use online forms for processing insurance claims. The organization has been using InfoPath 2003 internally but wants to make its forms browser-enabled.
Humongous Insurance is a large multinational company that sells insurance products for boat, automobile, and home owners. These products are sold to both consumers and corporate clients. Humongous Insurance has a large, mobile workforce of over 10,000 people that includes salespeople, claims adjusters, attorneys, IT staff, HR staff, and finance staff. Humongous Insurance is based in the United States, but has offices in Canada and several Latin American countries.
Solution 1: Forms for internal use
The insured customer contacts his Humongous Insurance agent by telephone to file a claim. The agent connects to the corporate claims Web site and completes the claim form for the customer. The agent forwards the claim by e-mail to the adjuster, who conducts an inspection. The adjuster approves repairs and costs. The adjuster completes the form that was sent in e-mail and returns it to the agent. The agent reviews the form for accuracy and then forwards it to the accounting department for payment processing. A representative from the accounting department approves a check and archives the claim form. The form is stored as an XML document in the Humongous Insurance claims database. The repairs are done and the customer is refunded the covered amount. Relevant account information is updated accordingly.
Solution 2: Customer-facing forms
Alternatively, a Humongous Insurance customer can file a claim over the Internet. The customer need not wait for regular business hours to file a claim. The customer can go to the Humongous Insurance Web site, establish her account, log on, and file the claim. In this case, the customer completes the form that is typically completed by the agent. After the customer submits the form, it is sent to the adjuster by e-mail and a copy of the e-mail is sent to the agent. The adjuster returns the form to the agent if additional information is needed. From this point, the claim form is handled in the same way as a claim initiated by a telephone call.
Scenario 3: Online government permits
A local government agency uses Office SharePoint Server 2007 and InfoPath Forms Services to provide permit application and approval to contractors over the Internet.
An electrical contractor successfully bids a job for electrical service updates to a home, and seeks a permit issued by the local government agency to complete this work. The electrical contractor goes to the Web site for the City Power and Light Department of Building Inspections to apply for a permit by using an online service. The contractor has previously registered to use this service. His company information, as well as a prior permit request, is already stored.
Solution 1: Customer-facing forms
Data entered into the permit application Web form is submitted to an XML database located on the network of the Department of Building Inspections. After the application data is submitted, a new permit request is automatically populated to a SharePoint workspace as a link to a multi-part InfoPath form. When the form is opened, the requesting contractor’s company data and permit application data are populated into fields in the first view of the form. This view is identical to the form that the contractor completed.
Solution 2: Forms processing workflow
As part of the process, City Power and Light Department of Building Inspections must formally acknowledge receipt of the application. The receiving agent checks the information for completeness and digitally signs the application form to confirm receipt. A precise image of the application form acknowledging receipt by the department is sent by e-mail to the contractor. InfoPath uses data adapters to access data relevant to qualifying a decision. InfoPath pulls this information from other internal agency data sources into the form in other views. The agency employee reviews this other data, adjudicates the request based upon this merged information, and approves or denies the permit request. If the request is approved, an electrical permit, populated with the requestor’s contact data and relevant information, is rendered in HTML. The permit is posted to the contractor’s home page on the Department of Building Inspections Permit SharePoint site, where the contractor can view and print the permit for posting on the job site.
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This topic is included in the following downloadable book for easier reading and printing:
See the full list of available books at Downloadable content for Office Forms Server 2007.