Business Forms Management on Corporate Intranets


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In 1999, paper business forms dominated businesses. Intranets were the untested platform. This Thesis focused on the tension between what I called Business Forms "paper pushers" and Intranet "propeller heads."

My research corrected predicted how 1) telecommunications advances 2) virtual partnerships 3) information security and 4) legal requirements would force these two groups to work together in the ways that I outlined.

This thesis was the foundation upon which I built a significant portion of my career.

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Business Forms Management on Corporate Intranets

  1. 1. Business Forms Management on Corporate Intranets Craig D. Burma In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Masters of Science Telecommunications Masters of Arts Management Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Minneapolis, Minnesota first draft 9/18/96 1st revision 1/5/97 2nd revision 3/27/97 (Chapter 2 added) 3rd revision 2/5/98 (Chapter 3 added, Chapter 2 changes) 4th Revision 5/9/98 (Chapter 4 & 5 added) 5th Revision 1/11/99 (All Chapters Completed) 6th Revision 6/12/99 (Final Changes Made)
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  4. 4. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 4 Table of Contents Title Page 1 Colloquium Approval Form 2 Thesis Approval Form 3 Dedication 6 Abstract 7 Chapter 1 Introduction 8 Problem Statement 12 Thesis Objectives and Outcomes 12 Significance of Thesis 12 Assumptions 13 Limitations and Scope 13 Overview of Remaining Chapters 14 Definition of Terms 16 Chapter 2 Literature Review 18 History of the Internet 18 Movement Toward Intranets 24 History of Business Forms Management 31 Business Forms Management Functions 35 Convergence of Business Forms and Intranets 41 Technology Trends Affecting Convergence 45 Management Trends Affecting Convergence 54 Literature Review Summary 61
  5. 5. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc Chapter 3 Methodology 5 62 Methodology Issues 63 Method1: Literature Review 63 Method2: Preliminary Interviews 64 Method3: Primer Publication 66 Chapter 4 Results 68 General Demographics 68 Experiences with Intranet Forms Integration 69 Success Factors Identified 71 Intranet Business Trends Identified 72 Educational Issues Identified 75 Chapter 5 Conclusions 79 References 82 Bibliography 88 Appendix 94
  6. 6. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 6 Dedication Foremost, I wish to thank God and Jesus Christ through whom all things are possible for allowing me the great opportunity to achieve this goal. I dedicate this thesis to my three sons; Jason, Brian and Scott. In their eyes I find the constant motivation to achieve great things on their behalf. I also dedicate this thesis to my wife Brandi who demonstrates the steadfast determination I wish I possessed. This is truly our accomplishment. I wish to acknowledge my parents, Orvin and Nancy Burma, for their contribution in making a college degree a prerequisite not an option. I thank my extended family in South Dakota including my grandfather, Walter Dale Miller, for teaching me the value of hard work. Finally, I wish to thank my brother, Lance Burma, for being an example for my academic pursuits. Lance, when I get my degree, I’m hanging it on the refrigerator!
  7. 7. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 7 Abstract This research was founded on the premise there is a fundamental need for business forms and information technology professional to work together to achieve corporate communication and information processing goals. This thesis examines the origins of business forms and information technology development and outlines the interdependence of each discipline in the context of Intranet forms development. The primary research gathers information for the formation of a primer to educate business forms professionals on key technical aspects of Intranets and a separate primer to educate technology professionals on the discipline of business forms management. It is hoped that through the use of these tools business forms and technology professionals may reduce conflict and facilitate more productive work to their mutual benefit and to that of their organizations.
  8. 8. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 8 Chapter 1 Introduction Information technology is advancing the integration of business functions at all levels within and among organizations. Gleckman (1993) partially attributed recent advances in productivity of the American workforce to a generation of advancement in information technology. Historically, corporations require a generation or more to master new paradigms in technology (Gleckman). For instance, Gleckman stated, U.S. manufacturers began using electric motors in the 1890s, but productivity did not reflect rapid improvements until the technology finally dominated factories nearly 30 years later. Now, 40 years after IBM sold its first commercial mainframe, computer technology is penetrating nearly every part of the U.S. economy (Gleckman). This historical pattern of invention, adoption, and implementation is repeating in the biggest paradigm shift in the use of information technology since the invention of the personal computer: the Intranet (Erlanger, 1996). The foundation of an Intranet is built on two key technologies derived from the creation of the Internet: Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) (Currid, 1996). Gralla (1996) explained how TCP/IP was originally developed in the 1970s for use with the Advanced Research Projects Administration Network (ARPAnet), a U.S. Defense Department computer network designed to withstand partial outages in the event of a nuclear war. Kobielus (1997) explained the next major improvement that occurred in the use of the Internet. Although the TCP/IP protocol provided the necessary flexibility to connect many disparate computer systems, a complicated, text based user interface restricted the adoption of this new computer network. In the early 1990s, however, a new applications layer interface appeared on the Internet called Hypertext. Kobielus described the creation of Hypertext
  9. 9. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 9 Transport Protocol (HTTP), developed by CERN The European Particle Physics Laboratory, enabling text which could be linked to other lines of text through the use of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Kobielus stated that this format, along with various additions and extensions, has become the standard for communications on the World Wide Web (WWW) (Kobielus, 1997). As the Internet has grown in numbers of users and servers storing accessible HTML files called home pages, information technology professionals have begun to discover the value of this computer technology in providing information within their organizations, according to Bradner (1995). Bradner, a research consultant with Harvard University’s Office of Information Technology, first articulated the concept of an Intranet in the media. Although no one has ever taken direct credit for the actual term Intranet, Bradner provided a vivid description of “web-based systems used to access personnel records, configure routers, update time cards, and look up phone numbers” (p. 25). Bradner concluded by stating his belief that “web technology can be used productively within an organization for a wide range of applications” (p. 25). In less than two years, Intranets have evolved from an interesting idea to a multibillion dollar industry shaping the fundamental structure of corporate computing into the next century (Heskett, 1996). Utilizing the open standards of HTTP and TCP/IP developed for the Internet, Intranet development is projected to dominate the information technology market at five times the rate of Internet investment, according to a study by Zona research (Welch, 1996). Several companies have already achieved significant, quantifiable cost savings resulting from the adoption of Intranet technology. One example of this success is Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI), in Mountain View California. According to a study commissioned by Silicon Graphics and conducted by Claremont Technology Group, SGI’s Intranet initiative saves the
  10. 10. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 10 human resources division $16,500 per month on training and $73,000 per year in employee benefit administration (Welch, 1996). This is only one example from hundreds of cases of companies streamlining operations with Intranet technology. With the growth of Intranets, a definition of the word “Intranet” has been discussed in many research studies and industry articles. Two basic definitions, however, seem to have become common in the industry. The simple definition of an Intranet is: a local or wide area TCP/IP private network supporting HTTP server based applications and information (Caron, 1996). A more descriptive definition by Claremont Research (1996) is stated as follows: An Intranet is the integration of an organization’s information assets and communications facilities into a single, widely accessible networked environment using Internet-based technologies, such as e-mail, news groups, file transfer protocol (FTP), and World Wide Web technologies. Web-based technologies provide a common user interface across disparate platforms, enabling the development of cross-platform applications, the integration of existing legacy applications and databases, enhanced communications and information sharing among the Intranet users. (p.1) Both of these definitions emphasize the importance of the access to and integration of information systems on the Intranet. In contrast to the chaotic evolution of new Intranet technologies, business forms management is a science which has a long and regimented history. Forms management is defined as the systematic process of increasing productivity and minimizing errors in information capture, transmission, and recovery through the use of workflow analysis and graphic design techniques; reducing the cost to procure, store, distribute, and manage forms
  11. 11. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 11 through standardization: and ensuring the business and legal adequacy, of all historical business records (Welch, 1996). Forms management as a discipline was first formulated shortly after World War II. Since that time, the elements of forms and their effects on productivity in the workplace have been extensively documented. Professionals and researchers in business forms management identify critical patterns in the analysis, design, and editing of business forms. This research enables corporations to use intelligent forms tailored to the thought processes unique to human development. Business forms managers, however, report difficulty gaining the respect of other managers for their function as a positive contributor to business operations (Jacobs, 1991). Their ability to improve the communications process of individuals in and among companies has been hindered by a lack of interest on the part of managers to analyze the effectiveness of business forms. Some information technology managers have apparently ignored the need to utilize business forms management practices in the development of forms content for their company Intranets. This lack of consultation with business forms managers has created numerous problems for Intranet managers caused by poor design of Intranet forms. As corporate managers realize the benefits of Intranet based information, many also have discovered the need for a comprehensive strategy for managing many business forms, both electronic and paper. Problem Statement For Intranets to succeed as an effective method for business communication and collaboration, information technology managers need an understanding of the discipline of business forms management. Likewise, for forms management professionals to maintain and expand their input into the workflow process design of corporations, it is important for them to understand the synergistic nature of corporate Intranets. Therefore, there is a need for
  12. 12. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 12 business forms and technology professionals to establish a mutually agreeable framework for business forms management on corporate Intranets. Thesis Objectives and Outcomes The first objective of this thesis is to describe the current trends in Intranet technology and business forms development through a literature review. This review provides a base of knowledge from which readers can understand the research. The second objective is presented in two pieces. The first piece is to provide a short primer introducing the discipline of modern business forms management to information technology managers. The second piece will be the creation of a primer introducing business forms professionals to the technology factors affecting the implementation of business forms management on Intranets. Significance of the Thesis One of the unique benefits of Intranet technology is the low cost of implementation (Callahan, 1996). Technology managers often cite this benefit as their main motivation for implementation. Unfortunately, this low-cost barrier to entry is also the main reason technology managers do not develop the comprehensive implementation strategies normally associated with more expensive client/server installations (Gralla, 1996). This same low-cost mentality is associated with a decline in traditional business forms analysis and design for forms distributed on corporate Intranets (Baker, 1996). This thesis focuses on combining the disciplined structure of business forms management to the synergy of Intranet technology. Assumptions Readers of this thesis are assumed to have a basic understanding of information technology infrastructure including personal computer networking concepts, Internet technology, and server implementations in a Local Area Network (LAN) environment. It is assumed readers understand the basic concepts of business forms and the use of forms in
  13. 13. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 13 corporate workflow. Readers may be business managers, currently using paper forms, interested in understanding the benefits of Intranet technology in their workflow. Conversely, readers may be technology managers interested in learning the discipline of business forms management in business communications. Although readers are not expected to have primary knowledge of the process of business forms analysis and design or computer network configuration, they are assumed to understand the process of these systems in organizational development. Limitations and Scope The scope of this thesis is limited to the business benefits of Intranet deployment in corporations having 30 or more computer workstations at locations in the United States. This research is limited to the analysis of concepts and decisions made in the formation of policies for business forms management on corporate Intranets. Business forms are considered to include all generic documents completed by employees, customers or suppliers of a corporation to communicate common information in the normal course of business operations. These forms may be contained on paper, in digital files created in computer based information systems, as well those forms digitized from paper. Overview of the Remaining Chapters The research includes a review of related magazine and journal articles and books on the subject of business forms management and Intranets in general. The few articles written on the specific subject of business forms management on Intranets were also reviewed. This information is provided in Chapter Two as an overview of current developments in business forms management and Intranet technologies. This review includes emphasis on a few dominant business and technology trends necessary to understand the implications of the convergence of Intranet technology and business forms management.
  14. 14. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 14 Chapter Three describes the methodology used for this research. The research was conducted in two phases. The first phase involved information gathering through interviews with professionals in both business forms management and information technology development. These professionals were identified by their active involvement in business forms management or Intranet technology development. Interviews were used to identify the necessary components to be included in two primers, one for each group, to educate these professionals on the issues surrounding the formation and implementation of business forms on corporate Intranets. During the second phase, two individuals participated in reviewing the draft guidebook. After a 15 day review period, these professionals were again interviewed, to gain their input on revisions to the primers to more accurately represent their respective concerns. In Chapter Four, the results of the interviews are compared and contrasted with the initial recommendations of the professionals and information from the literature review. From this data, a primer for the formation and implementation of an Intranet based business forms management policies was revised. It is presented in the appendix as the final outcome of the research. In Chapter Five, the results of this research is interpreted and synthesized. The writer’s opinions are expressed and conclusions are stated in the course of discussing recommendations for the reader and for further research. The final section of the chapter examines the initial objectives and outcomes of this research and the relevance of the research in future business development.
  15. 15. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 15 Definitions of Terms The applications layer is the top layer of the Open Systems Interconnection model. It provides the interface to end user processes and standard services to applications. Business forms management is the process of controlling the creation, distribution and revision of standard documents used by companies to communicate common information. Client/Server is a strategy in information technology involving the use of applications installed on a server and accessed by personal computers through a local area network utilizing client software. A Common Gateway Interface (CGI) is a linking mechanism for connecting database information to Web pages on an Internet or Intranet server. Content is the raw information, applications, and forms which are formatted and placed on corporate Intranets. Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) is a unique network addressing scheme which dynamically assigns addresses to workstations requesting access to services. Document management is the process of capturing, editing, indexing, and retrieving business information in various forms including paper, digital, audio, video, and photographic. A firewall is a barrier set up to contain designated local area network traffic within a specified area and to deny access to unauthorized users. HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is software that allows users to explore and create their own paths through written, visual, and audio information. Capabilities include being able to jump from topic to topic at any time and follow cross references easily. HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the standard session protocol used in Web communications to transfer HTML based information.
  16. 16. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 16 The Internet is a public computer network which joins many government, university, and private computers together communicating by a common protocol (TCP/IP) over a variety of telecommunications services. Interoperatability is the ability to operate software and exchange information in a heterogeneous network. An Intranet is a local or wide area TCP/IP network supporting HTTP server based applications, information, and communications. A Local Area Network (LAN) is a short distance data communications network used to link computers and peripheral devices under some sort of standard control protocol. Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) is Microsoft’s strategic interface for accessing data in a heterogeneous environment of relational and non-relational database management systems. Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) is the only internationally accepted framework of standards for communication among different systems made by different vendors. A server is a shared computer on the local area network that can be used for a variety of centralized services such as file storage and retrieval. The World Wide Web (WWW) is a network of computers utilizing hypertext pages, enabling users to browse information graphically when using the Internet and Intranets. A web browser is a generic term describing the user interface software used by personal computer users to view pages of hypertext markup language.
  17. 17. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 17 Chapter 2 Literature Review In order to understand the environment surrounding the integration of business forms on Intranets, the reader needs to have a basic understanding of the enabling technologies and trends affecting each area of expertise. The literature review begins with a discussion of the technologies of the Internet and the factors which led to the rapid acceptance of these technologies by corporations. This section explains how this acceptance created an overload of the Internet. This section contrasts Intranets and the Internet concluding with an exploration of Intranet growth trends in statistics and technologies. The literature review also presents a thorough description of the history of business forms management. The chapter points out the importance of business forms management in statistics and trends. The methods of business forms management are also explained as they relate to traditional, desktop and electronic forms. The final section of this literature review explores the effects of convergence on these two information processing systems. The obstacles to the acceptance of business forms are described along with the effects Intranet technologies have on those obstacles. Current technological and management trends are defined as to their impact on this convergence. History of the Internet Any discussion of Intranet development must begin with a brief history of enabling technologies leading to the growth of the Internet. Although the Internet supports hundreds of standards and protocols, there are four basic technological advances, which define the modern Internet: Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), HyperText Markup Language (HTML), HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), and browser clients.
  18. 18. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 18 TCP/IP. In the late 1960s, Garner (1997) stated, the U.S. Department of Defense feared the effects of a nuclear strike on the nation’s communications systems. To safeguard against a complete collapse of military communications, Feit (1993) explained, the Advanced Research Projects Administration (ARPA) began a relationship with universities and other research facilities in the United States to investigate new data communications technologies. Together the participants invented ARPANET, the first packet switching network in 1968. Garner (1997) described a packet switching network as a system using a myriad of routes for getting messages through, so that if a particular center is offline, many alternate routes can be used to deliver the information. An experimental four-node version of ARPANET went into operation in 1969 (p. 20). Gralla (1996) stated Vinton G. Cerf and Robert Kahn proposed the design for a new more reliable set of protocols in an academic publication. These new protocols were named Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). These two protocols were at the center of all future developments of the Internet and Intranets. The TCP/IP protocols were designed to be independent of host hardware or operating system (Feit, 1993). Feit described the protocols as robust in nature, surviving high network error rates and supporting many routing alternatives from delivering information to the destination (p. 6). As Gralla (1996) pointed out, however, TCP/IP are separate protocols although they are tightly integrated to allow for the most efficient communications. These two protocols perform complex functions in a way that appears deceptively easy (p. 9). TCP/IP breaks data down into sections called packets, delivers those packets to the proper destinations on the Internet, and after they have been delivered, the same protocol reassembles the packets into their original form so that they can be viewed and used by the recipient (p. 9). Transmission Control Protocol, Feit continued, performs the work of separating the data into
  19. 19. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 19 packets and reassembling it, while Internet Protocol is responsible for making sure that the packets are sent to the right destination (p. 10). Bernard (1996) described how, using TCP/IP, communications reliability improved and the model of an “internetwork” of links between computers was invented. The invention of the World Wide Web (WWW), however, did not occur until 1989. Then Tim Berners-Lee, an unknown researcher at the European Particle Research Center (CERN) was writing proposals about a new method people could use to transform information between computers using “HyperText” (p. 54). Garner (1997) pointed out that, at the same time in 1990, the federal government removed a long-standing ban on commercial and public use of the Internet. This event empowered businesses and information technology specialists to begin setting up servers to provide email and message services using the publicly accessible Internet. HTML. As messaging developed on the Internet, at the application level, two fundamental components for Internet growth were being invented: HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Siwicki (1997) defined HTML as an interpretive computer language that tells a computer how to display material inside a document, or page. HTML is a language that codes and arranges text, pictures, sounds and video so a web browser software client can integrate and display them on a screen (p. 53). Bernard (1996) claimed HTML, first proposed by Ted Nelson at Xerox PARC in 1965, was appropriately named because it is a good way of dealing with “hyperactive” readers. It can be read in a linear fashion like a book, or readers can “jump around reading it in bits and pieces like a puzzle” (p. 54). Key concepts are highlighted in such a way that when the reader clicks on the highlighted concept, it automatically jumps to another document where the concept is discussed in greater detail.
  20. 20. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 20 Singh (1996) described the history of HTML dating back to 1990. At first, HTML existed as a set of informally documented capabilities that mainly addressed control of character formatting, headings, lists, links, and image elements. HTML continued to evolve, eventually coalescing into version 2.0. HTML 2.0 clarified and formalized HTML features and added commands for menus and interactive programs (p. 120). Welch (1996) described HTML 2.0 as the basic component found in every server on the World Wide Web. HTML “pages” are simple text files, which contain tags that control formatting, image display, and links to programs that perform specialized functions. Word processors, spreadsheets, and databases can be adapted to create HTML-tagged files from existing data. Links to external databases and other systems can be created using a range of programming languages (P. 25). HTTP. HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application layer protocol employed when HTML files are transferred between host and client (Stanszak, 1996). Although a simple request/response protocol, HTTP has become the largest consumer of bandwidth on the World Wide Web (p. 3). Siwicki (1996) described how, at the lowest level of the Internet communications model, TCP/IP creates a common language between computers. Based on that language, HTTP requests and builds a link by which files are transferred back and forth. HTTP protocols work in conjunction with other protocols to transfer HTML information from a host computer, the server, to a workstation or personal computer, the client (p. 53). Browsers. Even with HTML and HTTP technology, until 1993, the Internet was used almost exclusively for email according to Garner (1997). Then a group of students at the University of Illinois invented something called a “browser” (Bernard, 1996). This new technology enabled the Internet client to “browse” the information found on disparate servers on the Internet, which used Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) to publish its information
  21. 21. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 21 (p.1). The World Wide Web quickly adopted this client/server architecture (Gralla, 1996). The browser allows users access to pages coded in HTML on HTTP-based servers communicating using TCP/IP (p. 33). A browser, Siwicki (1997) noted, works in conjunction with a web server to request and display HTML-coded documents from the Internet. Gralla (1996) added, a browser is programmed to communicate in HTTP and recognize and interpret HTML. The browser software resides on the client computer. A browser initiates a “discussion” with a web server located somewhere on the Internet. Siwicki (1997) summarized the process explaining the two computers, client and server, make a connection using the combination of HTTP and TCP/IP to communicate, passing digital information between each other until the client disconnects from the server. Internet growth leads to problems. Bernard (1996) described how soon after the invention of advanced graphical browsers like Mosaic and Netscape in 1994, businesses and their customers started moving information onto the Internet. The early web servers, however, were quite basic; the only function the servers could perform was serving text in limited formats (p. 6). Still, the Internet grew at a startling pace. The number of users jumped 700% in 1995 and by the same amount in 1996 (Coy, 1996). Bernard (1996) attributed this growth to the advent of these new technologies along with the removal of the commercial restrictions. This combination of factors, Bernard claimed, created massive growth in the Internet server market as well. Registered Internet sites grew from 17,000 in 1994 to more than 70,000 in 1995 and currently advance at the rate of 150 new sites per day (p. 8). Garner (1997) identified one of the unique characteristics of a web browser that fueled this rapid growth was the relative ease of use. Anyone with a personal computer, a modem and a telephone can browse the Internet anywhere at anytime.
  22. 22. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 22 The Internet it seems is a victim of its success (Cortese, 1996). The volume of information on the World Wide Web is staggering, and search engines and other devices bring little order to the chaos (p. 97). As for web sites, slow response times to browser requests cripple the effectiveness of using the web. As reality sets in, hundreds of sites are attempting to limit access to better serve the requests of qualified users. At this rate the Web could collapse under its own weight (p. 95). Garner (1996) found three startling facts to exemplify the magnitude of this hyper growth. First, the total number of e-mail messages now exceeds the number of U.S. Postal service mail deliveries every day. Second, the telephone bandwidth dedicated to data communications now exceeds that for voice communications. Third, the number of computers dedicated to data communications now exceeds those used for computation (p. 6). Dvorak (1996) showed the result of this rapid growth has been the increasing frequency of major disruptions of Internet access for thousands of individuals and organizations. In July 1996, there were two major Internet breakdowns. A single line of faulty code in a computer program crashed Net-com On-Line Communications, the nation's biggest Internet direct-access network. Some 400,000 homes and businesses were unable to access the Internet for an entire evening. Meanwhile, 5.5 million users of America Online (AOL) were unable to transmit E-mail for one hour on a week-day afternoon because of a software glitch (Brown, 1996). Coy (1996) described how, for 19 hours on August 7, 1996, the world’s biggest online company and its 6 million customers were unable to access the Internet. Technicians tracked down what they described as two crippling problems: a faulty roadmap of Internet addresses and a problem in the software of a powerful switching computer called a router.
  23. 23. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 23 Coy (1996) attributed these and other examples of problems in accessing the Internet, for hindering the acceptance of the Internet by executives in corporations. Bernard (1996) echoed information technology executive’s three issues, which are slowing the usage of the Internet by businesses: 1) connection speed 2) security of information and 3) service outages and breakdowns. Internet skeptics are redirecting their money away from the Internet and toward private Intranets, where they see a clearer path to cost savings and improved communications. Coy (1996) described these Intranets as internal networks working like the Internet and communicating with it but are built for a company’s own employees, big customers, and suppliers. Move Toward Intranets Many authors have attempted to define the Intranet and its components. Caron (1996), however, presented the most widely accepted of these definitions. An Intranet, Caron stated, is a local or wide area TCP/IP network supporting Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) server-based applications utilizing Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTML) for presentation of information (p. 8). This definition mentions each of the enabling technologies which pioneers utilized in the early growth of the Internet. Siwicki (1997) shortened the definition stating the following: Intranets use Internet protocols and Internet-derived technologies to communicate information inside a company’s local or wide-area network. Just as an individual uses a web browser to request and display information stored on Web servers on the public Internet, Siwicki continued, an Intranet user uses a web browser to request and display information stored on web servers on their organization’s private network(p. 54). One of the reasons for the “grassroots” nature of Intranet growth is the web technology which uses open standards and inexpensive tools that are not proprietary property of a particular company (Coy, 1996). Bernard (1996) characterized this growth as coming
  24. 24. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 24 from the “bottom up” not the “top down” in organizational development. Welch (1996) echoed this unique characteristic of Intranets in attributing the growth of these systems to their “relative ease in the installation and implementation of web-based services utilizing shareware and freeware software for relatively little capital outlay” (p. 23). One early adopter of Intranet development was Ron Griffen, information technology director for Geffin records. As Barsook (1995) reported, Griffen saw the power of bringing the technology used to communicate on the Internet inside the organization in early 1995. Griffen set up a web server with a shareware software program designed to serve files and data to web browsers such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer (Bernard, 1996). Griffen developed applications on the web server, which enabled Geffen employees to access employee benefit information, lookup internal phone numbers, and marketing information (Borsook, 1995). When Borsook asked Griffen about his Internet strategy Griffen defiantly rejected the rush to move information onto the Internet (p. 28). Instead Griffen stated his intention to “bring cyberspace to the company” (p. 29). In November of 1995, Scott Bradner wrote one of the first articles in Network World describing the as yet unnamed concept of an Intranet. Bradner described his encounter with an Intranet this way: I have seen and heard about Web-based systems used to access personnel records, configure routers, update time cards, register IP addresses look up phone numbers. It does look like Web technology can be used productively within an organization for a range of applications. (p. 25) Erlanger (1995) also identified this emerging trend of setting up internal corporate web sites to give employees easy access to large amounts of corporate information. In the corporate Intranet, Erlanger stated, the familiar web browser becomes something close to a universal
  25. 25. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 25 client: it can access a variety of files and databases via the internal web server. The following section highlights the role of the browser as universal client as well as firewalls, LAN and WAN speeds as unique characteristics defining an Intranet. The browser as universal client. The usage of a web browser as a universal client is the critical concept leading to the most important paradigm shift in information technology since the creation of the personal computer (PC): true thin client computing over the Intranet (Ziechick, 1996). Before the Intranet, Ziechick explained, the prevailing information technology strategy was called “Client/Server.” Client/Server development uses application servers containing the majority of applications functions and stored information. These servers are accessed by application-specific pieces of software called “clients” (p. 10). Client software is loaded onto PCs which then use the software in conjunction with the LAN access to the applications server to perform the function of information input, manipulation and retrieval (p. 10). Caldwell (1996) contended, although this computing model is widely accepted in information technology, its success in terms of return on investment has not been proven in the many cases. The average desktop PC today has seven to 15 applications – 50 to 100 software components – each of which have different versions (p. 37). Nye (1996) explained, with the single universal web client, users do not have to worry which of the 20,000 PCs in a large organization are configured with the proper driver software for a particular application. Nye, a long time advocate of Client/Server development openly declared the technology standard of the early 1990s, “a glaring disappointment” (p. 21). The Standish Group recently found only 16% of information systems managers said their client-server projects were on time and on budget (Caldwell, 1996).
  26. 26. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 26 Franklin (1997) stated while many consider Web-based applications to be an extension of the client/server model, in one crucial way they are a dramatic departure: Virtually all applications and business-rules processing occurs on the server, not the client. The client systems do all the display work, providing the universal graphic user interface (GUI) that has become crucial for the acceptance of new computer applications. But the database, Franklin continued, query engines and business process servers sit at the center of the enterprise rather than being distributed to the desktop (p. 76). In the classic Client/Server model, developers have to concern themselves with separate pieces of application software at the client and at the server (p. 76). In the web based-world, however, the client displays whatever is sent to it over the network. To change what the user sees, one need simply change the Web page file. Developers, Franklin concluded, do not have to worry about keeping versions of client and server software synchronized or wonder if a new version of client software can communicate properly with the server. Firewalls. Although many of the technologies found on the public Internet and private Intranet are identical, the key difference between the two entities is found in the configuration of the firewall (Gralla, 1996). Siwicki (1997) defined a firewall as a combination of hardware and software that separates a company’s internal Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide-Area Networks (WAN) from the Internet. Anyone can access Internet-based data with a web browser, while only authorized individuals can pass through the security precautions to access Intranet-based information. Bernard (1996) added Intranet web servers are commonly shielded by the firewall away from the Internet making the information accessible only to users on the LAN inside an organization or WAN connecting networks separated by a physical distance.
  27. 27. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 27 LANs. In addition to firewalls and browser-based applications, Gralla (1996), identified another unique characteristic separating the Internet and Intranets: HTTP transaction and HTML pages delivered at the higher transmission speeds of the company Local Area Network (LAN) and (Wide Area Networks (WAN). Derfler (1996) defined the term LAN as a group of computers typically connected by no more than 1,000 feet of cable, which inter-operate and allow people to share resources. Verity (1996) described LANs as a natural extension of the early days of computing when “dumb” terminals, consisting of a screen and keyboard, connected users to powerful processing computers called mainframes. The invention of the PC caused a revolution in computing power but isolated people from large pools of data from users. LANs enabled individuals to share information and resources such as printers and hard disk space (p. 119). Bernard (1996) estimated the bandwidth of the average LAN is 300 to 700 greater than the typical modem connection to the Internet. A standard connection by a user to the Internet is usually made via analog modem operating at 33.6 kilobits per second (Kbps) (Korzeniowski, 1996). Using a digital Integrated Switched Digital Network (ISDN), a user can access the Internet at a maximum of 112 Kbps (p.13). Even this relatively high rate of transmission, Gralla (1996) contended, is slow in comparison to the standard LAN which operates at 10 or 100 megabits per second (Mbps). Inside the Intranet, pages and information requests can be delivered at much higher speeds than those found on the Internet. Ford (1996) summarized the relationship between LANs and Intranet technology saying LANs are evolving into enterprise internetworks (small subsets of the Internet). Ford predicted these internetworks, populated by Intranet servers, will become the communications backbones of most modern organizations.
  28. 28. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 28 WANs. The LAN is a convenient way to connect machines on a single floor, or in a building. But the need to connect the computer networks in large organization, occupying several buildings in the same location or across the country led to invention of the Wide-Area Network (WAN) (Bernard, 1996). Derfler (1993) asserted the importance of WANs in the growth of computer networks in general. WANs, Derfler stated, provide the linkage mechanisms necessary to connect the multitude of computer networks typically found in the large organization (p. 156). This ability to link disparate networks has enabled organizations to realize the business benefits of Intranet computing in bridging the communications gap created by multiple locations. Kingsley (1996) provided a concise overview of WANs in separating them into two distinct categories; those based on dedicated services or those using switched services. Kingsley described a dedicated service (sometimes called a leased line) as providing direct and limited connectivity between two or more sites, such as a main office and branch offices. It is a closed, dedicated circuit, meaning it has a pre-configured destination point, and cannot be dynamically changed to an address outside the network. Since dedicated environments are reliable, they are secure and offer the predictability of a fixed monthly cost (p. 70). Kingsley also described the characteristics of WANs utilizing switched services. Switched possess some of the characteristics of a standard phone line: the network systems can dial anyone else with access to the public switched network for that service (p. 71). Verity (1996) identified leased lines as the dominant method of dedicated access while the switched service market is fragmented with several products including frame relay, integrated switched digital network (ISDN) and asynchronous transfer mode (ATM). Growth trends. The use of browsers as universal clients, firewalls, and LAN and WAN transmission speeds have each contributed to the rapid acceptance of Intranet technology in
  29. 29. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 29 the information technology plans of the majority of corporations. Magid (1996) characterized the ascension of Intranets by posing the question: “Who would have thought only a year ago the Internet – an uncharted and uncontrolled jungle of information –would serve as the model for the future of corporate information systems.” Bernard (1996) attributed this growth to the nature of Intranet technology. The inexpensive tools of Intranet development, Bernard claimed, empowers individuals outside of the traditional disciplines of information technology to explore the benefits of Intranets. Magid (1996) emphasized this point declaring Intranets are a paradigm shift led by a technology designed essentially for the mass market having now found its way into the office. Heskett (1996) showed this growth curve is shown in a summary of a research study by Zona Research showed the rapid growth in Intranet software markets in comparison to Internet software. Stewart (1996) contended these growth statistics underestimate the market based on the research of opinions of information technology executives at Fortune 1000 companies. Stewart cited research showing 62% of these companies are either currently using web servers for internal applications or are considering using them within the next year. Stewart also pointed out that fully 66% of surveyed organizations report either currently operating an Intranet or as having intentions to build one within 6 months. Sullivan (1996), however, noted a word of caution in the rush to utilize Intranet applications to replace currently installed systems. Sullivan stated: “Using the web to duplicate the features of collaboration applications –including document management, replication, and sophisticated security- would easily cost more than these applications do currently (p. 5). Business Forms Management History. Jacobs (1991) chronicled the history of business forms dating back to the late 19th century. Early forms, according to Jacobs, were created to process the large influx of
  30. 30. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 30 immigrants coming into the United States. Early forms were created for purchase orders, sales orders, receipts and shipping forms, bills and other forms necessary to control the flow of business activity in the rapidly growing United States. Before WWI, Jacobs continued, courts would not recognize a simple carbon copy form as a legal record. During WWI, the United States government took over control of the railroads and began using fanfold continuous forms recognizing the validity of a copied form as legal (p. 8). These advances formed the foundation upon which the discipline of business forms management was built (p. 12). Punch cards, Jacobs continued, were invented by Herman Hollerith to speed up processing of the 1890 census. In the 1930's American businesses used punched cards in tabulating machines to print reports and documents on continuous forms (p. 12). Jacobs also detailed the growth of computer-based business forms. Computers, Jacobs wrote, replaced tabulating machines in the 1950s. These computers, unlike tabulating machines, read punched cards and printed on continuous forms. Barnett (1996) reported the paper forms business, including the design, printing, distribution and storage of paper forms, exceeded $6 billion annually in the United States in the late 1980s. These pre-printed paper forms became the dominant method of business communication until the advent of desktop computing. Barnett reported that real desktop forms appeared in the 1980s, in a crude form. In their simplest form, they consisted of a form that could be called up from a computer library and printed out. Barnett defined other desktop forms as those downloaded data from a mainframe or other database and merge it with variable data for printing on local or networked computers. This early growth has led to some 600 million desktop forms being printed each day in the world, according to Karve (1996). Impact of business forms on corporate productivity. The slow acceptance of professional business forms in corporate America stands in sharp contrast to the rapid
  31. 31. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 31 acceptance of Intranet technology. Jordan (1996) described the long struggle of business forms professionals to prove the benefits of their expertise. McGovern charged this disparity of acceptance has led to conflict between management of information systems (MIS) departments and business forms managers (McGovern, 1997). McGovern cynically described initiatives by MIS that are “calculated to eliminate all paper forms within the company” (p. 1). Craine (1997) echoed the tension between information technology and business forms departments warning, “in this information technology age, the danger is that we will get lost in a wonderland of gadgetry and forget the fundamental function that plain old paper forms serve.” Craine defiantly added that, although uncertainties accompany technology, one thing is certain: information in the form of paper is still the predominant form of business communications. Craine concluded by asserting “while technophiles preach the wonders of the World Wide Web, bottom-line thinkers will continue to recognize the vital role that paper documents play in business. We must certainly attend to advances in information technology, but not at the risk of neglecting plain old paper.” (p. 4). Numerous facts from a variety of sources show businesses are not neglecting the use of paper or their investment in paper-based information systems. Linsky (1996) reported in the early days of computer technology, it was predicted that the paperless office would someday be a given. Linsky cited an American Forest and Paper Association report showing 85.7 million tons of paper was consumed in 1988. In 1994 Linsky continued, 95.9 million tons of paper was consumed. The Gartner Group estimated that 83% of all business documents are forms (p.8). An estimated $6 billion is spent every year on buying pre-printed forms and potentially as much as $360 billion is spent on processing the forms (Jordan, 1996). Booher (1986) showed the effect of this paper in presenting three startling facts: (a) Companies spend $25,000 to print and process the forms in a four drawer file cabinet of 18,000 pages. (b)
  32. 32. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 32 Companies spend $2,160 annually to maintain an active four-drawer file of 18,000 pages. (c) Companies maintain one four drawer file cabinet for each white-collar employee. As the Gartner Group statistic showed, the cost to process business forms far exceeds the cost to produce the form. Jacobs (1991) identified this indicating that for every dollar spent to design and purchase a form, it requires from $20-$100 in labor to fill in, process and store the form. Booher (1986) showed the importance of efficient paper forms by pointing out the lack of productivity improvement in the “white-collar” workforce. Blue-collar productivity, Booher said, has increased 90 percent during the last two decades, while whitecollar productivity has increased only 4 percent (p. 1). Studies of American business indicate that 50-70 percent of all working hours are spent on paperwork. The paperwork includes preparing, reading, recording, interpreting, filing, and maintaining information (p.1). Gralla (1996) expounded on the hidden costs of paper forms including mailing costs, costs for storage, retrieval and filing. There is, according to Gralla, a more pernicious cost; the cost of handling inefficient forms. These inefficient forms, Gralla said, lead to a slow down in business operations which can put the company at a competitive disadvantage. The importance of forms and intelligent forms analysis, design and distribution cannot be overstressed. Baker (1996) identified forms processing and having the right form as a critical part of any business today. Paper forms are the standard method of collecting and providing information to and between corporations Baker continued. Jacobs (1991) described the risk of operating without proper business forms. Business forms, Jacobs claimed, provide the primary mode of transactional business communications. If there were no business forms, he warned, many instructions and communications would have to be given verbally or by specialized memo. Business forms, Jacobs continued, provide an organized checklist of
  33. 33. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 33 information. It asks the proper questions in an organized manner. Business forms provide an efficient, economical way to write instructions and control actions in business (p. 5). Johnson (1996) expressed his concern that although forms represent the backbone of most organizations, companies lacking a standard forms management policy often create as many forms as they have employees adding up to a major expense. Booher (1986) pointed out most organizations are “astounded” to find out how many forms they have floating around the company. Records management experts, she continued, say it is not unusual to find twice as many forms being used as those that are known to the company. They also estimate that at least 20 percent of the forms used in a company are completely unnecessary (p. 93). Poorly designed forms, Jacobs (1991) said, are found in organizations where management has not provided forms design training. Despite education attempts by forms manufacturers, forms management departments, forms associations and forms professionals, many organizations work with inefficient forms. Jacobs warned many forms in use today do not take advantage of the proven forms design techniques that eliminate expensive inefficiencies. Improperly designed forms subject the office worker to confusion, eyestrain and fatigue. They encourage clerical errors and undermine employee morale in addition to the dollars lost in filling out and processing them (p. 5). Business Forms Management Functions In an attempt to find common ground between Intranet development and business forms management, a thorough understanding of business forms management by information technology and MIS professionals is required. This section includes the description of the three main strategies of business forms development: (a) Traditional analysis and design, (b) Desktop-based development, and (c) Electronic business forms development. Barnett (1996) cited the Business Forms Management Association’s (BFMA) definition of a form as a basis
  34. 34. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 34 business tool (whether printed or electronic) for collecting and transmitting structured information. The BFMA definition goes on to describe forms as both a catalyst for getting things done as well as a record of what was done. Jacobs (1991) defined the paper form more precisely as a piece of paper containing printed information and blank spaces for the entry of data in a predetermined format. Traditional analysis and design . Jacobs (1991), considered the authority in the discipline of business forms management, contended the development of a form, regardless of whether it is paper, desktop or electronic, is segmented into two distinct processes: forms analysis and forms design. Forms analysis, Jacobs said, is the first step in a forms development process. This step determines if the form is actually necessary. If so, then it is further determined what data it should contain, what of form it should be and how it should be designed (p. 65). Forms are part of workflow in an information system. Therefore, forms analysis involves an investigation of the individual form’s role in the workflow, not just an investigation of the individual form (p. 65). The BFMA definition of forms analysis adds five objectives to the process: (a) Productivity is increased in preparation, use, filing, and retrieval (b) The total number of forms within the system is minimized (c) Data element relationships are apparent through consistency and adherence to standards (d) The effectiveness of the entire system, as well as the individual form, is enhanced and (e) The resulting business tool communicates the intended message. Jacobs (1991) concurred with these objectives but added the analysis process should also strive to enhance the corporation’s image. Jacobs continued by describing the investigative nature of forms analysis. After the facts are gathered, Jacobs said, the analyst continues by investigating the possibility of eliminating the form or combining parts of the proposed form with another similar form. If it cannot be eliminated, the analyst studies the form and the information system to determine if
  35. 35. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 35 and how the form can be improved (p. 77). Jacobs summarized the activities of forms analysis involving the following forms activities: forms writing, extracting and using data, forms transmittal, processing, disposition. After the analysis process is completed, the forms design process begins. Jacobs (1991) warned that the untrained person usually designs forms that are difficult to fill in, read and process (p. 5). The uneducated designer, Jacobs continued, may not leave enough space to capture information, the may design them in non-standard sizes, or they may design forms which do not fit into the information systems requirements. The proper design of paper forms, Booher (1986) added, considers all these issues in the preparation of a form that is easy to read, understand and complete. After pointing out the obvious benefits of forms design, Jacobs (1991) drew many parallels between the design of paper and electronic forms. The forms vary significantly in content, appearance and construction, Jacobs claimed. They can be paper printouts or electronic through the design, completion and archival processes. Yet, certain forms design principles apply to all types of forms. These principles are the basis for efficient forms design. The principles are valid whether the designer is designing with a pencil or computer, Jacobs said. The proper application of proven forms design principles will help to ensure the efficiency of forms (p. 116). Jacobs reminded designers that a form is an information systems tool. The value of the form, Jacobs pointed out, is in the efficiency with which it facilitates workflow in the information system (p. 100). Designing a form as part of an information system includes six major principles: (a) Be an efficient information systems tool (b) Simple to understand (c) Grouped logically (d) Spacing compatible with the fill in method (e) Promote efficiency for both fill in and processing (f) Appearance creates favorable responses.
  36. 36. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 36 For traditional printed forms, Jacobs wrote, the result of professional forms design is a pencil drawing on forms design layout paper. This design is used to receive approval for the printing of the form and to serve as a guide in its production. For desktop forms, the end product of forms design is a form stored on a computer that is made available on a computer or printed out when needed (p. 13). He stated the advantage of traditional paper forms design is that it is a two-step operation (p. 14). The hand design is performed by a trained forms designer who starts with forms analysis and who then incorporates professional design principles to create the form. The advent of desktop forms. Desktop forms began to emerge in the late 1980s as the result of the invention of laser printers and desktop publishing programs allowing the onscreen design of type and lines (Baker, 1996). Baker described how this access to inexpensive design tools and high quality typesetting output created a new industry called “desktop publishing.” Unfortunately, Jacobs said, many desktop publishers, graphic designers and others designing forms are not aware of the basic forms design principles. An inefficient form, often created by untrained designers, disrupts the efficiency of the information system and may jeopardize the accuracy of the data collected. Despite the obvious acceptance of desktop forms in American corporations, Jacobs, continued in his negative assessment of the value of desktop forms stating his belief that the worst forms are produced internally on desktop publishing equipment, copiers and duplicators (p. 6). Jacobs, however, did describe a few benefits of desktop forms design including combining the design and typesetting in a single operation. The advantage is the ease of “drawing” on the monitor and easily making corrections and alterations (p. 14). Karve (1996) advanced the opinion that the shift has gone from the traditional “print-and-distribute” model, where documents were printed and then routed through traditional mail or interoffice
  37. 37. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 37 mail, to the more efficient “distribute-and-print” model, in which digital documents are circulated over networks and printed locally as needed (p. 67). Linskey (1996) added that now business forms management companies are helping clients significantly decrease the amount of paper they use by reengineering the many forms and documents toward computerized design and completion. The emergence of electronic forms. The advent of desktop forms enabled designers to create, store and print forms directly from a personal computer (Baker, 1996). Barnett (1996) reported by the early 1990s, software was available to allow the user to fill in the form on screen and send it electronically to someone else without the need for paper at all. These are true “electronic forms.” Jacobs (1991) defined an electronic form as a “template in an electronic format which assigns space in data fields for input of variable information and also assigns definitions, formulas and restrictions to the data fields in preparation for electronic forms processing.” Jacobs contrasted desktop forms versus electronic forms by remarking that a form that is only designed on the computer to be printed out for use is not an electronic form –that is a desktop form (p. 43). Barnett (1996), however, included printable forms in defining an electronic form as a form template resident in a library on a computer network available to authorized users for viewing and/or printing. Oullette (1996) discussed the dynamic of the conflict found between paper and electronic forms. Traditional business forms providers must compete with electronic forms imaging and software technology as the industry booms and paper prices increase. Paper forms companies, with $84 million in sales in 1994, Oulette contended, have the invaluable resource of customer relationships spanning decades. But software startups are approaching the development of business forms without any of the traditional constraints held by traditional forms managers (p. 28). Until recently, Baker (1996) pointed out, electronic forms
  38. 38. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 38 technology has been an expensive solutions to implement. The market on electronic forms runtime packages, however, is currently less than $100 per seat. At this price, it’s a technology ready to be deployed enterprise-wide (p. 86). Statistics show this deployment is occurring at a rapid rate. Stahl (1996) cited Steve Weissman, president of Kinetic Information, a consulting firm in Waltham MA, who estimated the electronic forms market at about $115 million in 1995, up from $50 million three years ago. Baker (1996) showed how insurance agents are now using electronic forms to electronically complete the information necessary to start the underwriting process and instantaneously submit the application form to the home office for processing. Rules built into the electronic form prevent errors and ensure the form is completely filled out (p. 86). Electronic forms, Baker continued, are also being used today by individuals to improve the process of completing the IRS's 1040 tax form. These e-forms, as they are commonly called, prompt you for the information upon which it applies the IRS business rules to minimize errors. When you’ve completed the form, you can print it on a laser printer and submit it directly to the IRS (p. 86). Several authors pointed out the factors which lead to these dramatic reductions in cost to corporations using e-forms. Johnson (1996) stated that switching from paper to electronic forms makes obvious sense: Not only does it save trees, it saves money. But if the process is not handled properly, it can create more problems than it solves, he warned. Paper is a slow way to move information, one that creates storage and duplication problems (p. 45). Jacobs (1991) added converting from paper to electronic forms can reduce the costs of printing, sorting, managing, filling in and distributing forms. This is achieved through increased productivity, saving time, gaining office and warehouse space and saving money previously lost in destroying forms that required revisions or became obsolete. Baker (1996)
  39. 39. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 39 expounded on the factors by adding the cost savings found in supporting multiple sites with business forms. Electronic forms, Baker said, also solve the problem of replacing outdated forms and distributing them to field sites. Keeping multiple sites stocked with current versions of forms takes a tremendous effort. And, as forms are revised, the old copies are still being used creating incompatibilities with new workflows. If the form has legal requirement changes, the latest copy must be sent to the field office. By distributing the form electronically, everyone has the latest version of every form (p. 86). Jacobs and Baker agreed electronic forms also create cost savings in linking form completion to databases. In the back office, Baker (1996) said, use of electronic forms can automate the processing of service requests. Keying of data is reduced through the use of “pre-fill” capabilities typically built into electronic forms packages. The end result, is fast accurate professional forms for processing and a significant reduction in the amount of time necessary to complete business transactions (p.6). Jacobs (1991) concurred saying electronic forms are advantageous by being created on electronic media for subsequent fill-in and processing directly by databases. Unlike paper forms, they are not printed and stocked. They are created once and used via computer. The data entry is transmitted and processed immediately by a database application (p. 43). Feibus (1996), described how forms professionals can control the collection of information and transmission to databases via input masks such as combo boxes, lookup tables, command buttons, check boxes, radio buttons, tables in the form of mini-spreadsheets. Convergence of Business Forms and Intranets. The emerging technology of Intranets appears poised to intersect with the rich history of business forms management. Gralla contended while the paperless office has been talked about and pursued for at least a decade, the advent of Intranets will finally bring it to reality.
  40. 40. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 40 A combination of communications technologies, web publishing tools, workgroup applications, and e-mail is cutting down on paper costs, slashing mailing costs, helping to eliminate administrative and clerical overhead, and allowing businesses to react more quickly to business changes to deliver goods and services more quickly to their customers (Baker, 1996). This convergence of business forms and Intranets is best shown by examining the obstacles to electronic forms acceptance in corporations and the impact Intranets are having on these obstacles. Obstacles to electronic forms acceptance. Despite all technological advances, Bernard (1996) says, business leaders face the same problem they did 10 years ago: how to communicate and manage the vast streams of data and information created daily by millions of office workers, manufacturing facilities, design teams, dealers, sales reps, customers, and suppliers on a world wide scale. Jordan (1996) described how paper forms go through many stages in an organization. Because each stage in the process costs money, automation provides savings at every step. However, when the business case for electronic forms was built, due to the technology constraints of the day, it concentrated on automating only limited parts of the paper process. Jordan (1996) added that electronic forms provided significant costs savings even when they were applied to only part of the process. RJR Nabisco, for instance, estimated that processing a single paper PO costed $70. The cost for processing the same PO electronically was estimated to be .93 cents (p. 4). Given these potential savings, Jordan (1996) continued, suppliers of electronic forms should be having trouble meeting the demand for their products. After over ten years of growth, however, the electronic forms market remains small with total sales estimated at only $100 million in 1997 (p.4). Jordan contended the high cost of computer systems upgrades necessary to implement electronic forms is the reason for this relative lack of acceptance.
  41. 41. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 41 Callahan (1996) stated the computer components often requiring significant upgrades at great cost for the introduction of electronic forms. These components, Callahan stated, include: LAN infrastructure and terminal investments required to provide access to those not currently using PCs, investment in electronic mail systems, installation of graphical user interfaces such as Windows 95, and the installation of specialized client software on each user’s workstation. Jacobs (1991) identified training and cultural issues as the major factor hindering the acceptance of electronic forms. Uninformed, untrained and employees resisting change make many more mistakes with electronic forms thus reducing the cost savings opportunities inherent in electronic forms (p.238). Impact of Intranet technology on electronic forms acceptance. Barnett (1996) claimed from the time Gutenberg printed the first forms to the present, form design has been more often than not been driven by the technology of the day. Electronic forms distributed through the Intranet, Barnett continued, demonstrates the longevity of business forms in transcending paradigms as a business communications tool. Jordan (1996) announced the coming convergence of business forms and Intranets saying: “Two software industries that have existed separately are about to be joined. The traditional world of electronic forms and the rapidly growing world of the Internet are quickly coming together” (p.1). The rapid ascent of HTML and the Intranet, Van Name (1996) claimed, has given the world of electronic forms only the second ubiquitous format standard (after ASCII text) that the industry has ever known. Garner (1997) concurred with Van Name and Jordan stating his belief that forms will play a significant role in capitalizing on the Internet and Intranets. Although the medium is new, he said, the need for capturing and recording information to process a business transaction is not. Business forms already do that function Garner concluded and the
  42. 42. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 42 manufacturers of forms should strive to become recognized source for Intranet-based business forms (p.5). The key factor differentiating Intranet-based business forms, commonly referred to as “I-forms,” from traditional electronic forms is their ability to deploy within existing technological investments in web technology instead of introducing new costs and constraints to network resources Callahan (1996). To understand how electronic forms leverage web technology, Callahan said, it is necessary to understand what underlying technologies electronic forms require. If an organization already has this technological infrastructure in place, electronic forms represent potentially high payoff applications (p.5). Jordan (1996) praised web technology as providing a powerful infrastructure upon which business forms can be developed. Electronic forms packages, Jordan stated, become minor upgrades to an existing Intranet, not a completely new client/server software system. Bernard (1996) described the static user interface which programmers spend hours designing thousands of lines of computer code to present a user interface on a standard client server application. Bernard contrasted this with HTML form tags which let anyone with a little knowledge of HTML create a dialog-like interfaces and business forms in minutes. Nolie (1996), introduced the concept of “service overlays” to describe business forms technologies on Intranets. The central problem with client/server deployment, Nolie asserted, and network management in general is its dependence on a particular standard down to the desktop level. Intranets, on the other hand, are defined by routers, servers and LAN topologies but have limited requirements at the level of the PC. Because the routers, servers and LAN topologies have been in place for several years, most companies are overlaying their Intranets on the existing infrastructure without making major investments in technology (p. 5). Intranets, Nolie contended, represent an entirely new situation for information technology
  43. 43. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 43 managers – a type network without significant hardware resources attached to its development. Callahan (1996) extended this service overlay concept to I-forms. I-forms, Callahan wrote, provide an opportunity to leverage the investments that organizations have made in information processing and communications technologies for a relatively small cost. Callahan claimed the costs of the underlying technologies required for I-forms implementation to be “sunk” costs (costs part of the basic overhead of the organization such as phones and lights). These costs therefore, need not be considered in justifying an I-forms project or the payoff (p.5). Bickel (1996) presented a dramatic example of the synergy of business forms and Intranets. A large engineering firm, Bickel wrote, had been trying to implement a time-sheet submission and reporting forms system across its network for 6 months. Failing to accomplish the task, the company began using Web technology. In two weeks, it had an application up and running fully linked to a database at the corporate headquarters. Garner said forms will always be required to transact business and record information, but many of the forms that are now on paper will also be posted on Intranets. At the very least, Tellas (1996) added Intranets are going to hasten the trend toward viewing business forms as a component in broader strategies for automating business processes. Jordan foreshadowed this acceptance stating as Intranets push down the barriers to electronic forms, organizations can expect to see a tremendous increase in the number of electronic forms systems being implemented in the next five years. Technology trends Affecting Intranet/Business Forms Convergence The chaotic beginnings of Intranets in American corporations has been driven by technology advancements in the marketplace (Bradner, 1995). “Net time” is the term used by developers to describe the rapid product development cycle times for Internet/Intranet
  44. 44. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 44 software (Cortese, 1996). Caldwell (1996) described how standards for directory structures, email delivery and applications programming interfaces have suffered through dozens of announcements, alliances and bickering between a multitude of software vendors competing for segments of this multi-billion dollar industry. Although this competition continues in many areas of development, there are five areas which directly contribute to the convergence of Intranets and business forms. These five areas include: (a) Extranets, (b) Electronic data interchange (EDI) over the Internet and on Intranets, (c) Access to host/mainframe information from a web browser, (d) Collaboration tools in the form of groupware, and (e) Advancement in web programming languages like HTML, ActiveX and Java. Extranets. First, companies established web sites to craft a corporate visage. Next, companies figured out that this same technology could work as well in-house on an Intranet. Now internal sites at a growing number of companies are becoming something less than private. Companies allow selected outsiders -- partners, vendors, distributors, contractors, customers and others to slip past the firewall and share a corner of their Intranet space (Stuart, 1996). This is known as an “extranet.” Although many claim credit for inventing the term, Angwin (1997) contends the term was first used by Bob Metcalfe, 3com founder and a columnist for Info World Magazine. Zeichick (1996) defined the extranet as an network based on TCP/IP protocols and web architecture using various security mechanisms to allow only select customers and vendors access to internal company information (p.102). Stuart (1996) asserted the adoption of extranets in corporations is rivaling the adoption rate of Internet web sites. Stuart cited Financial Services Corporation (FSC) as an example of this trend. FSC, Stuart said, has abandoned several Internet-specific endeavors in favor of Intranet/Extranet projects. These projects have already opened up the companies’ intranet to 1400 independent field associates and some 200 preferred business partners at 60
  45. 45. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 45 companies in 48 states. The main benefit of an extranet, Stuart continued, is the ability to develop closer links with customers and suppliers there by reducing costs and improving production processes. A few companies consider the nurturing of these relationships so important, they've placed a greater emphasis on expanded Intranets then on Internet development (p.30). The extranet communications model streamlines many of the request, delivery, analysis and action steps required in business transactions between vendors and clients (Tebbe, 1996). One of the most exciting applications today, Tebbe said, is enhanced ordering systems. These systems tie suppliers more tightly to their customers, benefiting both parties. As the cost of corporate purchase order processes continue to climb, the need for integration is clear, he added. From letting customers check billing information to sharing sensitive correspondence with partners, companies are using extranets with increasing openness (Maddox, 1996). Using an extranet, Stuart (1996) continued, customers can log in, answer their own questions, place orders, and even pay electronically - on their own scehdules, from anywhere in the world and at little cost to the company. The use of extranets, according to Wilder (1996), is expected to grow dramatically in the next 18 months. In a Forrester survey of 35 Fortune 500 companies with Intranets, 46% of respondents said they currently give access to selected outsiders, and 28% said they plan to do so. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) over the Internet. Wilder (1997) described the viewpoint of economists who realized long ago that trade performs most efficiently and grows most rapidly when the friction of trade is reduced or eliminated. Many businesses, Wilder continued, utilize EDI to reduce transaction delays from days to minutes. With EDI over the Internet, electronic forms enable companies to reduce the transaction to the point of nearly “frictionless commerce,” (p. 33).
  46. 46. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 46 Jacobs (1991) provided a concise definition of EDI. EDI, Jacobs wrote, is the computer to computer exchange of business information in a standard format. It allows organizations to conduct business without paper documents and human intervention. Radosevich (1996) added the technical components of this definition. EDI, she said, works by allowing different companies’ computers to exchange transactions using standard formats, namely the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) X12 series. X12 specifies standard fields for purchase orders, shipping documents, invoices, payments, and hundreds more data transactions. Typically, Radosevich continued, EDI software extracts information from mainframes and formats the information using standard forms for transmittal to a valueadded network (VAN). VANs serve as a clearing house which centralizes the connections and processing of thousands of vendors and clients (p. 68). Despite the obvious benefits of implementing EDI, the benefits of the technology have only been realized by 5% of the world’s corporations (Curtis 1996). Curtis stated companies wanting to participate in EDI have traditionally faced several challenges: the high cost of value-added networks (VANs), integrating with existing computer systems, maintenance and overhead and reegineering their business processes. Curtis detailed the high costs of using VANs. A small VAN customer working with 25,000 messages a month is often paying between $14,000 and $25,000 a month. TSI International estimated the same number of messages per month using internet-based EDI could cost as little as $1,920 (p. 59). Gralla (1996) said the Internet and Intranets are challenging the dominance of VANs in EDI transactions. EDI, Gralla contended, was created to enable mainframes from one company to talk to the mainframe at another company. On the Internet and on Intranets, however, the same standards can be employed to perform secured transactions between individual employees of different companies through their desktop computer using a standard
  47. 47. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 47 web browser. Radosevich agreed with Gralla claiming “traditional proprietary EDI is dead in 24 months,” (p. 68). Chin (1997) contradicted Gralla and Radesovich, claiming VANs will continue to play a valuable role because they provide the reliability, security and ability to track transactions that the Internet lacks. Many companies are conducting a significant amount of EDI over the Internet. Wilder (1997) reported on Dell Computers. After just six months of selling over the Internet, Dell now sells more than $1 million worth of PCs a day over the Internet. Dell uses specialized HTML-based forms tailored to corporate customers. These forms simplify the order entry, confirmation and delivery scheduling which had previously been communicated through lengthy phone conversations with customer service representatives. Cisco Inc., a large manufacturer of computer networking equipment, is about to become the first organization to achieve an annual run-rate of $1 billion worth of products sold through its extranet links with distributors and large end-users. Recent research by Forrester suggests EDI over the Internet and other electronic commerce initiatives accounted for $350 million in revenue for 1996 (Seymour 1997). The market, according to Wilder (1997), is forecasted to grow to $66 billion by the year 2000. Radosevich attributed this growth to the ability to use forms on the Internet and Intranets. The Internet and Intranets offer a way to reach thousands of new suppliers and buyers who have nothing more complicated than an Internet connection and a web browser. Also the use of Internet/Intranet forms can go far beyond EDI in terms of business communications. Companies can use forms on the Internet and Intranets to coordinate the entire purchasing cycle - from product information to customer support - as well as carry out the low-level transaction such as purchase orders (p 38).
  48. 48. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 48 Access to host/mainframe information via Intranet forms. In most large corporations, at least 80% of corporate data is still sitting on a mainframe. Users of these systems have come to expect security, capacity, integrity, and reliability from a mainframe system (Whan 1997). Umar (1997) pointed out most corporations serious about using web technologies for enterprise computing, also have a large embedded base of legacy applications on mainframes. In linking mainframe applications to Intranet forms workers are allowed access to essential customer data without having to build new desktop applications. In this scenario, business forms on Intranets are used as the intermediary between the user and the data structures on the mainframe. There are several architectural approaches used to unite web and mainframe resources and dozens of products to help build these links (p. 10). Software that converts mainframe data streams to HTML output is growing at an astronomical rate, according to Slater (1997). In this scenario, information remains on the mainframe, maintaining a high degree of predictability and performance but also high usability and customization using HTML or JAVA, a web-based programming language. Cox (1996) described several approaches to linking mainframe data to business forms on Intranets. One approach to merging mainframes with Web-based forms and servers is to write server-based programs that use CGI, a web standard for accessing external programs. A second approach is using a more efficient and flexible, but proprietary, web server applications programming interface (API), such as Microsoft's Information Server API (ISAPI) or Netscape Communication's Netscape Server API (NSAPI) with Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) to access the remote database. Finally, forms developers can, in effect, eliminate the Web server entirely and use a third party middleware product that itself may implement some of these interfaces (p. 36). Done properly, these interfaces can present intelligent features of field lookups, required fields and point and click interactions. Done poorly, the new interfaces
  49. 49. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 49 cause a variety of problems including communications breakdowns and corrupt data on the mainframe. Groupware collaboration tools. During the mid 1980s, a group of manufacturers started a movement toward what are called open protocols (Derfler, 1996). At the same time, network operating systems were created to share printer and disk resources. In the 1990s, Derfler said, developers introduced new categories of software called workgroup software. These programs made it easy to search for, organize, and link data from documents, spreadsheets, and databases so that it can be shared. The use of electronic forms and workflow routing was introduced in later versions of these programs. Gralla (1996) described how the first major workgroup software for personal computers, called Lotus Notes, was installed in thousands of corporations including half of the fortune 100 companies. The competition for fully functional groupware platforms is currently dominated by three players according to Roberts (1997): Lotus Domino/Notes, Microsoft's Active Platform with Exchange 5.0 as the messaging and groupware engine, and Netscape's Communicator client suite and attendant server. Roberts described, in detail, the advantages of each solution. If a form or document needs routing, sign off or workflow functions, Lotus Domino is the obvious choice according to Roberts. The advantage of Microsoft groupware is tight integration of all the necessary pieces, including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access. All of these applications share information with exchange with relative ease. The advantage of Netscape is found in its utilization of purely open non-proprietary standards. This allows functionality improvements from third party software developers without risking incompatibility with proprietary standards. Several authors, including Fontana (1996), Gralla (1996) and Roberts (1997) agreed that the implementation and adoption of groupware in corporations has proven successful in a
  50. 50. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 50 limited number of cases. In a study sponsored by UCLA and Arthur Anderson in Nov. 1996, 65% of organizations surveyed still use groupware for its most basic communication function; sending and receiving e-mail (Cox 1996). According to the same study, only an average 12% used groupware for the functions it is created for: scheduling, process workflow and knowledge management. According to Cox (1996), the majority of companies using groupware are clearly failing to tap the full potential of collaborative computing including the use of electronic forms and workflow management. Despite the current problems identified with the adoption of groupware functions, all authors stated a firm belief in the growth of collaborative computing in the near future. Cortese (1996) claimed in five years, the term Web groupware will be redundant. These sophisticated, according to Cortese, Intranet applications will let employees fill out electronic forms, query corporate database, or hold virtual conferences over private webs. Roberts (1997) concurred claiming Intranets, by nature, create environments in which workers want to collaborate. Roberts quoted Harry Fenik, a groupware analyst at Zona Research saying “Collaborative computing is simply going to become the way we all work, inculcated into a lot of different products. It won't be a discrete thing you buy. The Intranet will consume this philopsophy” (p 9). Advancements in web programming. Any review of technological trends affecting the implmentation of business forms on Intranets would not be complete without a summary of the current trends in programming and coding of information on web servers. This summary includes a discussion of the following components used in web publishing: JAVA programming language, Active X from Microsoft, and Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripting.
  51. 51. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 51 Wilder (1996) spotlighted a fundamental change in the development of web servers and HTML pages. “We’re past the crawling and the walking stage,” Wilder said “but the running stage is mission critical applications and those require the use of advanced programming languages that are designed for web development” (p. 20). Dragon (1997) described JAVA as a programming language like C++, not a page description language such as HTML. According to Dragon, the programming language, originally developed by Sun Microsystems, has evolved from a tool for improving the appearance of web sites, to the next great platform for Internet/Intranet computing (p. 100). Currently, Dragon continues, the most widespread use of Java is on corporate Intranets, where developers have employed it for creating applets. Applets are interactive page elements or basic applications viewed within a browser. ActiveX, as Rahmat (1996) explained, is a group of object-oriented components that form a layer of programming between the API and the actual application. An ActiveX component is described as a control, which represents an interactive template for how an object acts. An object within ActiveX can be almost anything: a JAVA applet, a C++ program, a piece of animation. The ActiveX control, Rahmat continued, sets up the object as an interactive entity within a web page. These controls enable forms developers to utilize existing forms created in everything from word processing programs, desktop publishing programs and proprietary forms design packages. Given the proper ActiveX control, all of this content can easily be published to the web site complete with links to back end databases for the capturing of input information. It's been almost two years since Sun Microsystems introduced JAVA programming language, and one year since Microsoft introduced ActiveX - but it appears that developers have yet to widely deploy either technology in web development (Levin, 1996). The dominant
  52. 52. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 52 development method of Intranets is the Common Gateway Interface (CGI). Developers write CGI scripts to connect web-based forms with back-end databases. As Levin reported, a research study by Jeff Winchell, a software architect at Application Methods, found of the 30 million web pages searched, 33% are using CGI scripts. Less than 0.1% are using JAVA. Less than 400 pages total were found to contain ActiveX controls. Management Trends Affecting Intranet/Business Forms Convergence The most common mistake of many information technology professionals is their tendency to consider only the technological factors involved in the introduction of new systems into an organization. This oversight of the management and workflow factors involved in systems implementation has contributed to the friction between information technology and business forms professionals (McGovern, 1997). The examination of current management trends pertinent to Intranet/Business Forms convergence helps to clarify the process for implementation. The trends considered relevant include: (a) Change management (b) Growth of virtual organizations and (c) Advancements in telecommuting. Change management. Change is the business environment of the 1990s according to Fishman (1997). Change management is the process of realigning business processes, including marketing, production and distribution, to meet the rapidly changing needs of the business markets (p. 66). Change, Fishman asserted, is the business equivalent of a professional baseball learning to play professional football one week and ping pong the next. Fishman attributed the advances in the speed of change to the increasing pressures of the growing world economy. He also attributed increasing change to developments in global telecommunications technologies (p. 66). Sheff (1997) concurred with these assertions in describing the characteristics of change. Sheff stated change is no longer a “program” instituted by organizations but an everyday way of survival. Instead of an external program,
  53. 53. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 53 Sheff argued, change is intrinsic to business, an integral expression of how any successful business operates. It has transcended any particular corporate department and become the responsibility of every employee in the organization. The successful management of change is dependent on three factors: the capabilities and characteristics of change agents, the resistance of people and systems to change and the tactics employed by change agents to minimize resistance and facilitate change. Within any healthy organization there are those individuals who make change a part of their every day responsibilities, Fishman (1997) said. They are change agents - but only as a way of working, not as an actual job title. Creating change is a skill. But getting things done and moving the business is the passion (p.67). Change agents, Davenport (1997) asserted are inherently focused on a vision of how the organization will look when the changes are complete. Hildebrand (1997) added an external focus to the list of requirements for change agents. Peter Drucker, quoted in Hildebrand’s article, reminded change agents that business results from change functions are only visible outside the organization. Fishman (1997) concluded his list of requirements by stating change agents must be willing to be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny and a tougher standard of judgement from those above and below them in the company structure. Sheff (1997) said, when people hear that someone is going to "change them," they have an instinctive reaction: resistance. Fishman described three general rules to the inevitable development of resistance in the organization. The first is to expect resistance to change. Second is for the change agent to not take resistance personally. And third, understand that resistance is rarely communicated overtly. Fishman quoted Bob Knowling, a US West executive and change management specialist, relating the announcement of change initiatives
  54. 54. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 54 to “painting a target on your chest” (p.66). Fishman went on to describe Knowling’s acknowledgement of resistance and tactics used to reduce this resistance. Change management asks employees to examine the value they bring to the organization. Involving the employee in improving their value to the organization through change helps reduce the fear employees often associate with change (Fishman, 1997). Sheff echoed Fishman saying successful change management is dependent on preparing people for change Using a collection of resources including videos, seminars and training on new procedures, change agents create opportunities for people to change without forcing it on them. For change management to take hold in an organization, Fishman said, change must also be linked explicitly to real performance goals, and it has to be entrusted to people who understand the business first and change second. Along with securing the support of senior executives, all authors agreed that the most important tactic in change management is the creation and cultivation of an informal, self-organizing communications network within the corporate hierarchy. Growth of virtual organizations. The virtual corporation involves multiple organizations acting as a single entity (Dickey, 1996). It is an organization without boundaries - between its own divisions, between organizations in similar or related fields, between an organization and its suppliers or customers, and even between the organization and its competitors (p. 21). For the first time, Maloff (1995) claimed, employees located in different parts of the world can communicate with one another in a timely and cost-effective manner. Customers in New York can view products sold in Toronto, Oslo or San Paolo and can purchase them online. Sales personnel can log on to a proprietary computer system thousands of miles away, conduct a real-time demonstration or enter an order for a client immediately. Bernard (1996) agreed stating many of the technological obstacles to virtual corporations
  55. 55. thesisv4-140220095353-phpapp01.doc 55 have been overcome. What remains, Bernard continued, are the cultural obstacles. Bernard pointed out that it may seem frightening for employees to share proprietary information. But once the opportunities that are offered by the virtual corporation are understood, he added, organizations of all sizes will be eager to embrace this concept. The technology framework required for the virtual organization includes familiar elements like E-mail, videoconferencing, workgroup and forms-based workflow applications (Dickey, 1996). All of these systems must be extended outside the local area network to companies linked through dedicated telecommunications channels. Increasingly, these capabilities must also be accessible on Intranets and over the Internet (p. 21). These technologies provides the foundation for the virtual corporation to act independently of locations and time zones, both within the company and with alliance partners, with all participants working together to achieve a particular goal. In the virtual corporation, Dickey continued, managers think in terms of projects that accomplish corporate goals, not in terms of what jobs people have or what departments they are in. Projects are staffed by competent people, regardless of whether they are part of the corporation or come to the project from an outside organization. Most important in today's business world, Currid (1996) added, the virtual organization can reorganize itself quickly to meet the needs of a changing marketplace. Outsourcing everything that is not part of the organization’s core competency is something people have been talking about for years. The higher costs of “renting” production and management capacity as opposed to buying must be weighed against the benefits of agility in responding to increases and decreases in market demand. Sandler (1997) spotlighted Trufish, a frozen fish distribution company, as one example of a truly virtual organization. They have no headquarters and a small sales staff