With the assessment of Public Administration, in RM and SAM process specifically, we exposed the lack of control in these processes. This detection of “organization’s weakness” promoted the organization’s initiatives to begin an improvement process.
Information Systems With these results, we accomplished the Symposium objectives. Firstly we obtain an initial assessment of RM and SAM processes of all Public Administrations and secondly we promote, among all Symposium participants, the idea that it is possible to improve and obtain the leadership in Public Administrations.
This Symposium was the first step, now it is the turn of Public Administrations, they should begin the formal assessment of their process to identify the strengths and weakness, and prioritize their improvements actions.
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Madrid, Spain. November, 2004.
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Authors' Information Jose A. Calvo-Manzano – Universidad Politecnica de Madrid – Facultad de Informatica, Campus de Montegancedo s/n, 28660 Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, Spain; e-mail: email@example.com Gonzalo Cuevas - Universidad Politecnica de Madrid – Facultad de Informatica, Campus de Montegancedo s/n, 28660 Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, Spain; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Ivan Garcia - Universidad Politecnica de Madrid – Facultad de Informatica, Campus de Montegancedo s/n, 28660 Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, Spain; e-mail: email@example.com Tomas San Feliu - Universidad Politecnica de Madrid – Facultad de Informatica, Campus de Montegancedo s/n, 28660 Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, Spain; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Ariel Serrano - Universidad Politecnica de Madrid – Facultad de Informatica, Campus de Montegancedo s/n, 28660 Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, Spain; e-mail: email@example.com Magdalena Arcilla - Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia – Escuela Tecnica Superior de Ingenieria Informatica, C/ Juan del Rosal 16, 28040 Madrid, Spain; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Fernando Arboledas – Informatica y Comunicaciones de la Comunidad de Madrid (ICM), C/ Embajadores 181, 28045 Madrid, Spain; e-mail: email@example.com Fernando Ruiz de Ojeda - Informatica y Comunicaciones de la Comunidad de Madrid (ICM), C/ Embajadores 181, 28045 Madrid, Spain; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Fourth International Conference I.TECH 2006 GEN. A SURVEY APPLICATION GENERATOR Hector Garcia, Carlos del Cuvillo, Diego Perez, Borja Lazaro, Alfredo Bermudez Abstract: The National Institute for Statistics is the organism responsible for acquiring economical data for governmental statistics purposes. Lisbon agreements establish a framework in which this acquisition process shall be available through Internet, so each survey should be considered as a little software project to be developed and maintained. Considering the great amount of different surveys and all changes produced per year on each make impossible this task. An application generator has been developed to automate this task, taking as a start point the Word or PDF template of a survey, and going through a graphical form designer as all human effort, all HTML, Java classes and Oracle database resources are generated and sent from backoffice to frontoffice servers, reducing the team to carry out the whole set of electronic surveys to two people from non I.T.
Introduction Complaining Lisbon agreements concerning e-Government, the Spanish National Institute for Statistics (INE) tackles the problem of translating all economical surveys from paper format into web applications. There exist hundreds of different forms, and for a particular survey, more than one version depending on the kind of target organization, so the required effort to create all infrastructures exceeds not only the capacity of I.T. Department, but the budget to carry out the gigantic task. A previous successful experience on metadata processing from INE and the pilot projects on Java application generation from Technical University of Madrid seem a proper combination to afford the trouble.
The idea consists of taking as a start point the current survey forms in Microsoft Word or PDF format, translating these into a tag based format appropriate for both browser representation and automated processing. This creates some kind of template used as a background for the application. Then a user may define the web form over the background painting components using a designer, and establishes properties for the components from those pre-defined in the designer. Finally only translating these definitions into source code is still to be done.
The technology of generated code shall meet the following requirements:
- HTML 4.01, later substituted by XHTML 1.1 by the research team at UPM, for the web user interfaces.
- XForms 1.0, for the definition of validation rules, with the premise to deploy complete surveys in XForms for future use.
- Java servlets, based on action struts architecture and their corresponding beans.
- Hibernate 3 as database connection tier.
- PDF format as receipt of the answered surveys.
The Basic Architecture The main goal of the project, beyond any other, was to decrease sensitively the staff, effort and time to market for each survey application, and so, of the whole set of applications. The lack of I.T. professionals in the department in charge of the project also conditions the profile of the target user of the generator.
Four modules were found to be the core of the survey generator:
Format translation tool As long as the forms corresponding to the different surveys are being created in other departments, the format and composition developed for hard copies is not valid for automated processing, some tool to extract the Information Systems contents from Word and PDF files and export them into tagged files, closer to web requirements and much more appropriated for processing.
For this purpose several options were evaluated. At first the best choice seemed to develop a specific translator, in Java language. The wide support for PDF processing available supposed a great advantage, but by that time the number of API or information about accessing Word files, especially about the structure of these files, was very poor. Only some arising APIs, such as Apache's POI, were available, so finally the decision went on a third party product, and then develop only the integration to the system.
Survey definition tool: the editor Once the source document has been translated in a processable format, and before proceeding to its publishing, the system allows users to define the forms for the survey. Of course, there is not enough information in the templates, but visual aspect. In this sense, the captured survey is shown to the user as background in a screen, in which he may add or remove components that will later compose a web form.
For each field in the survey the editor allows to define some specific features, such as data type, length, etc. In case of combo boxes or lists, it is possible to define the valid values list. Also constraints have been implemented, such as date formats, decimal and thousands separator, ranges, allowed data sets, etc.
The components available while designing forms are the following:
Label: consists of a read only text. The user may define component name, text, font type, size and color, bold and italics style and background color.
Text: it is a read/write field containing characters, and it is possible to configure component name, length, maximum capacity, data type (string, date, time, year, day, month, float, double, integer, positive, negative, long) for validation rules to be applied. If the validation finds that the content of the field does not match the data type, the user shall be advised, so the application allows the user to set an error message to be displayed in a dialog. It is possible to apply some modifiers to the text fields, such as mandatory, read only, hidden and calculate value automatically. In case of selecting calculated field, a calculator is shown to define the formula. A formula may contain both values and fields in the same survey.
There is also a description of the field to be shown as a hint. For some specific surveys, with repetitive contents, such as tables with a row per city or state, it is necessary to associate the field with a column in the table where data is to be stored.
Text from database: it is a read/write field associated to a column in a table from a database. The purpose is to set a default value for the field when the form is loaded. The field is processed as a text field once the form is submitted. It is very useful when defining, for instance, headers in a form, with the name, address and essential data for the final user. Possible configurations are identical to text Figure1.- Toolbar fields.
Text area: consists of a text field with several rows. The user may define the size in terms of rows and columns, and data type, read only and mandatory options are available. For this component the validation rules may be disabled.
Radio, check boxes and lists: a new feature is added regarding the previous components: an interface to manage the choices and value for each choice in the available options, and establish a default selection if any.
Buttons: it is possible to draw buttons and associate a number of actions to them. Currently a button can save the form, add or delete items to repetitive contents (such as tables), validate the form and generate the errors list, or open the help page. Also specific separate components are available to create reset and submit buttons.
Fourth International Conference I.TECH 2006 Of course a survey can be defined in several working sessions, so the functionalities for saving a survey in the current definition state, open a saved survey, and delete are available, as well as preview of the current survey.
Finally, in the bottom of the toolbar, generate survey and exit commands are located.
If the user has already defined other surveys, the system enables the import functionality, so that the components from other surveys can be brought. This feature is especially useful to create surveys that are simple modifications from the previous year format, or to create the same survey in a different language, so only some modifications on descriptions and hints are needed.
Most surveys are so long that page breaks are needed. The editor allows defining these line breaks, which also are considered when generating the PDF receipts.
Application generator The application generator retrieves the form already defined with the previous tool, starting a analysis process, in which the definition data are separated into modules, and afterwards the different application components are generated as a set of XHTML pages that are a composition starting with the original HTML from the PDF or Word, adding the information defined in the editor, and some GEN specific attributes for some tags that allow further processing. These attributes are used mainly to show the specific user information (i.e. tags with organization information, or the form with values that have been saved in a previous session).
Then the XForm files needed to validate the data in the forms are built to be used in web and bulk load processes, plus the resources for XHTML, such as background images, help files, etc.
This entire infrastructure is stored in the database, and when a request to fill in a form is produced a set of servlets, action struts and filters that parse the XHTML page to be showed, together with the required resources, get the result.
To generate PDF receipts from the submitted forms XSL:fo is used. As long as the forms are, after the process, HTML pages, a previous transform has to be done. Fo processes basically XML documents, and HTML does not provide the closing tags, for instance , so the document is analyzed and translated into XHTML before processing. The PDF shall have same number of pages as defined in the survey using the page breaks.
Publishing tool The first approach to publish all the resources generated by GEN was to send to the production server all classes, JSPs, servlets, images, etc. It is a remote server in a different network, and should be configured for allowing the access to file structures, execute compilations, modify Tomcat settings, … at the same time that the network devices where also reconfigured. Of course this is not an affordable task, obviously a software tool of this kind cannot cause all this changes.
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