DRV Technologies Gets Hip to Forms
by Alex Woodie
DRV Technologies, the developer of SpoolFlex, has discovered the value of electronic forms. Last week, the company announced the general availability of FormFlex, a relatively low-cost form overlay application for OS/400 that enables users to design their own invoices, shipping labels, checks, and other forms--and thereby send their pre-printed forms packing. Combined with SpoolFlex, the company's flagship product, DRV Tech now offers a document management solution that can satisfy the needs of most OS/400 shops.
DRV Technologies has been in the electronic document business since its inception many years ago in the greater Atlanta area. SpoolFlex has enabled hundreds of AS/400 and iSeries shops to reduce their dependency on printers by grabbing spool files off their OS/400 server's output queue, reformatting them into popular formats like PDF, HTML, and Excel, and distributing them electronically, via e-mail, fax, or posting to a central server.
What has been missing from the menu of DRV Tech products, however, was an electronic forms overlay product that allowed OS/400 shops to create and modify their own forms. With the introduction of FormFlex last week, the company now offers users the capability to create attractive-looking business documents that they previously could only get from pre-printed forms, or by relying on third-parties to create forms for them.
FormFlex is an entirely OS/400-based form-design application. It enables users to design a variety of electronic forms and checks (via the optional FormFlex eSign module) while making use of graphic elements such as lines, boxes, and logos, and MICR data for checks. FormFlex forms are presented in Hewlett-Packard's PCL format, and can be printed from any PCL-compatible laser printer. The software also includes a PCL-to-PDF converter, enabling users to use PDF forms with no extra charge. Thanks to its integration with SpoolFlex, FormFlex documents can also be distributed via e-mail and fax.
One thing that users won't find in FormFlex is a graphical interface. Instead, the software uses an X-Y grid system for form design and layout. But eschewing the graphical format used by other document management software vendors brings advantages, including lower cost, says Christopher David, sales director with DRV Tech.
"We always thought it was crazy to have a GUI that's used 5 percent of the time, but accounts for 25 percent of the cost," David says. "FormFlex doesn't have all the bells and whistles of a $50,000 package, but 80 percent of most shops don't need them."
Users do not need programming skills to create forms using FormFlex, David says. Also, it's easy to update company information with FormFlex because the software maintains an externally described table for this information. Anytime a change is made to information such as the company's address or phone number, users can update the table once, and all the company's forms are automatically updated with that change.
FormFlex users save money because they can print official documents from a laser printer using plain, white printer paper instead of pre-printed forms. The software also enables users to reduce clutter in their offices by eliminating file cabinets, because thousands of documents can be saved to a CD-ROM or a hard disk.
One early FormFlex user of the software is the Automated Control System division of defense contractor Honeywell. Peggy Johnson, who works in the division, says implementing FormFlex will save her company about $37,000 during the first year of use. "We purchased FormFlex for two reasons: our accountants needed electronic storage for their files, and we also needed to distribute these forms via SpoolFlex," she says.
Johnson says the company has created three forms with FormFlex, and has about seven more to go. "FormFlex grabs the information off our [OS/400] server and makes it very easy to create even our complex forms for our government and aerospace customers," she says. "We're dependent now on FormFlex--it would be a problem now if we didn't have it."
FormFlex is compatible with SpoolFlex and Audit Trail, a newly introduced SpoolFlex add-on that allows administrators to find out when and where reports were distributed, who sent them, who received them, and what delivery method was used (see "SpoolFlex Gains Audit Trail for Regulatory Compliance"). In addition to PCL output, FormFlex can output documents as text searchable PDF files, providing users with a way to search through thousands of documents stored on their iSeries or on a CD-ROM.
In addition to the standard FormFlex package, DRV Technologies introduced the FormFlex eSign package, which enables organizations to imprint their MICR checks with digitized signatures, and thereby get rid of manual check-signing equipment. FormFlex eSign helps prevent unauthorized checks from being signed by encrypting access to the digitized signatures and by password-protecting them.
FormFlex and FormFlex eSign are available now. Pricing for FormFlex is a flat $5,000 per iSeries server, a price that includes a starter pack of three custom-designed forms by DRV Technologies and the first year's maintenance. FormFlex eSign costs $1,150, which includes the first year's maintenance. For more information, visit www.drvtech.com.