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The worlds of document publishing and application development are converging. Traditionally, publishing processes focused on static documents in print, PDF, HTML, and other formats. While the Web introduced rich media formats, this only provided a more compelling multidimensional rendering of static information.

The reality is that business depends on dynamic data, and static documents only provide a snapshot in time. Users who need the most current information possible must go to the source – the business applications and other systems of record. This sort of “on-the-glass” user experience is fine for some business processes, but other business processes are document centric, depending on the persistence and rich context that a document format uniquely provides. This has forced users to copy and paste data into documents, breaking the link to the sources of record and freezing the data in time.

Traditionally, the choice has been between live data without context — or context without live data. But another choice is emerging: the document as the application. Here, the persistence and context of a document converge with the dynamism and interactivity of a business application. This will be a fundamental change in how we think about documents and a transformation to document-centric business processes.

Why Documents Matter

Unlike portal-style business applications, documents persist as self-contained artifacts. They present a fully contextual view into information, which is organized with a deliberate intent and purpose. Many business processes are document-centric. For information workers, documents transfer knowledge and communicate information when it must stand alone.

Business applications provide some degree of context for data, but they’re not persistent. The stateless views they present are fleeting and episodic, which makes portal-style business applications a poor substitute for many processes.

Consider the example of a technical manual for maintaining the hydraulic system of a commercial airliner or the standard operating procedures for powering down a nuclear power plant. These are both examples of information that must be conveyed in the context and with the persistence of a document, yet these documents are subject to ongoing change, as complex arrays of data within sources of record are updated. Putting inaccurate or out-of-date information in the hands of the end consumer can lead to rework or redesign costs, launch delays, regulatory noncompliance, or worse.


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