Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
The Power of XML
Imagine this: Two companies compete for a similar client base in a mid-size
town in the Midwest. The companies are similar in size and offer similar
products; but they differ greatly in their use of technology. The first company relies
on a standard method for information exchange—when a department manager
in sales wants to know the status of a product in development, she sends the
product development manager an e-mail message: “Will product #2310 be
available on the 15th as scheduled?”
Depending on how busy the product development manager is, he might or
might not get right back to her. She waits for the information. Her potential
customer waits for the information. She calls the manager but gets no answer. She
walks down the hall (or across campus) to see whether she can find out more.
Until the manager is able to respond to the question personally, everybody waits.
The other company uses XML as a data-exchange standard, allowing
employees and managers to continuously update and draw information from
databases and display it in user applications. All the information about the new
product is stored in a database in XML format, so people with access to that
information are able to pull it from the database as needed for use in reports,
e-mails, tables, and spreadsheets. As a part of their sign-off process at the end of
each business day, all department managers fill in a smart form based on
InfoPath that enables them to enter quickly any status changes in the project.
The information is saved in XML and deposited in a larger database. A combined
status report is then generated automatically and delivered to each division
supervisor for review. In this company, a sales manager wanting to know the
status of the product (assuming she has access to this information in the
database) has only to call up the product information in the database to answer the
question—and pull together some real facts—for her waiting customer.
Note XML is about more than simple data storage—it’s about the
flexible way you can name your own data, save it independent of its
form, and reuse and rebuild it in any number of different ways. The
XML support built into Office 2003 allows users to work with the familiar
Office interface and create and save documents as XML, without ever
knowing they’re actually working with XML. This means users need
little or no additional training, can work with procedures similar to the
ones they’re familiar with, and ultimately save valuable data in a form
that enables businesses to work smarter, faster, and more productively.