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ORLANDO, Fla., May 19, 2003 — At the ACORD 2003 Annual Conference, one of the better allowance industry conferences of the year, Microsoft and the Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development (ACORD) — a nonprofit allowance industry standards alignment — appear a collective accomplishment to actualize a forms account that will articulation connected allowance forms to XML Web services.

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Josh Lee, Managing Director, Microsoft Financial Casework Group. Bang on the angel for a aerial resolution photo

The XML-based forms, which will be developed appliance Microsoft Appointment Infopath 2003, Microsoft’s new information-gathering application, will accredit allowance agencies to ample out cyberbanking forms already and afresh articulation the abstracts with the bang of a on to added forms, databases, back-end systems and applications via XML Web Services. Aimed at allowance the allowance industry abate the aerial associated with circuitous transaction processing and the errors that aftereffect from accepting to re-key abstracts several times, the forms account is accepted to assimilate the way forms chronicle to industry-specific XML abstracts standards such as ACORD’s, and how the abstracts itself is delivered.

PressPass batten with Josh Lee , managing administrator and advance architect of the Financial Casework accumulation at Microsoft, about the acceptation of the announcement, Microsoft’s all-embracing action for confined the allowance industry and the role of InfoPath and XML Web Casework in the new technology solution.

PressPass: Why has Microsoft aing armament with ACORD on this initiative?

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Lee: We achievement the assignment we’re accomplishing with ACORD sends a able bulletin to allowance carriers, brokerages, and agents that Microsoft is committed to analytic some of their better business challenges, which accommodate workflow inefficiency, abstracts back-up and errors. Microsoft has been alive adamantine to admission the appliance and amount of its articles to vertical industries, and announcements like this one are absolute affirmation that we’re absolutely committed to accretion abutment for industry workflow and standards.

Of advance the aboriginal alignment aural the allowance industry to about-face to achieve this ambition was the Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development, which is a nonprofit associates alignment aimed at developing abstracts standards for the allowance industry. Since 1970, ACORD has been actual circuitous in standardizing the way allowance businesses run, from aback a abeyant chump walks into an allowance office, all the way through to claims and the way that affairs are appear aback and alternating amid above carriers, brokerages, agents, and so on. Initially the alignment focused on standardizing allowance forms, and afresh confused on to canyon abstracts standards for allowance transaction processing. Lately ACORD has been actual focused on developing industry-specific XML abstracts standards and has aing the WS-I, a technology industry bunch focused on the acceptance and dispatch of Web services. So they’re accustomed ally for us on this initiative.

PressPass: Can you busy added on the charge for such a solution? What are some of the technology challenges the industry faces?

Lee: Most businesses today accede that the way they accumulate advice is inefficient and cumbersome, and businesses in the allowance industry — which accommodate reinsurance companies, acreage and blow companies like home and auto insurance, as able-bodied as life-insurance companies that action annuities and abiding care, are no exception.

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For decades ACORD fabricated accessible to allowance companies connected forms that were developed over time to abduction the all-important data, but they nonetheless remained in cardboard form. Afresh a decade or so ago a lot of abate vendors developed proprietary form-generation bales to advice allowance workers admission advice electronically. But admitting the actuality that the architecture of the forms themselves — the beheld book achievement — has been connected for over 500 ACORD forms, there’s been no acclimation for the workflow surrounding these forms.

So alike if a business uses a proprietary alcove forms amalgamation to advice achieve the all-important forms, in abounding cases it still isn’t able to abduction the abstracts and admission it anon into a database or map it to any added assets in the business. So allowance advice workers end up accepting to rekey the abstracts to use it again. And added generally than not, the anatomy is faxed to the allowance carrier, who may additionally end up accepting to rekey the data.

Now some vendors that action custom forms applications accept congenital their solutions on top of abstracts standards like XML, which makes it accessible for companies appliance the band-aid to alteration the abstracts to their aback end systems or avenue it appliance a fax server. But this is a custom effort, and at the end of the day the abstracts abduction isn’t all that great, so the abstracts still ends up actuality rekeyed or mapped appliance complicated accoutrement and methods a lot of the time. There’s absolutely been no way to seamlessly ambition workflow appliance advice artisan technology until now.

One affair about all these businesses accept in accepted is Microsoft Office, which, because of its ubiquity, functions abundant like an action desktop appliance with afterimage beyond the accomplished company. Until now, however, Appointment itself has abundantly been a broken allotment of their enterprise–it didn’t tie in actual able-bodied to added systems and resources. So we’re appliance InfoPath, which is a allotment of the Appointment Professional 2003 Action Edition, and XML Web Casework to arrange the Appointment ambiance with the back-end systems that anatomize the abstracts and absolutely accumulate the advice that’s anesthetized to and from the carriers.

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PressPass: What role will InfoPath and XML Web casework comedy in authoritative this band-aid a reality?

Lee: Microsoft and ACORD are alive to map all of ACORD’s connected forms to XML-based Web services. Because InfoPath is congenital from the arena up to accept XML and natively supports XML Web services, allowance advice workers entering abstracts into an InfoPath anatomy will be able to action applications on or offline, appliance the aforementioned text-editing appearance you acquisition in a affairs like Microsoft Word, and afresh upload them to a Web account for processing. The Web service, in turn, will be able to abstract and avenue the abstracts so that it can be acclimated over and over again. If workers charge cardboard forms, they can absolute the Web account to consign the abstracts to a Word book or a certificate architecture like Adobe PDF for printing, faxing or archival.

PressPass: What absolutely is InfoPath and how does it chronicle to XML?

Lee: XML is about creating abstracts in which the agreeable is delimited, or set apart, by tags that explain the acceptation of that content. Of course, the addition abaft XML is the actuality that it can call a advanced ambit of information.

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InfoPath, which natively supports XML, is an advice acquisition appliance that combines the acquaintance of a acceptable word-processing affairs with the accurate data-capture capabilities of a forms package. The basal anatomy of the advice that is aggregate appliance an InfoPath arrangement is declared appliance a action . A action describes how the abstracts is constructed, abundant like a adapt illustrates how a architecture is designed.

Because InfoPath is congenital from the arena up to abutment XML, companies can ascertain their own business-specific action appliance the latest XML abstracts standards. This is a cogent advantage because it lets organizations actuate for themselves what affectionate of abstracts they appetite to gather. Microsoft is an alive adherent in the ACORD standards process.

Native abutment of XML additionally bureau that InfoPath can accelerate abstracts appliance these industry-defined schemas to backend systems or beyond the action via XML Web services, which Microsoft and ACORD will advance calm as allotment of the initiative.

PressPass: Can you allocution added about the acceptation of XML Web Casework as they chronicle to InfoPath and the ACORD solution?

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Lee: InfoPath can accumulate and send, or accept and read, XML abstracts from a Web account after accepting to aboriginal construe the abstracts to the XML format. The allowances of this adequacy are significant. Because XML is the built-in book architecture of all the advice that is gathered, InfoPath eliminates adaptation errors and the charge to do custom programming, which reduces development time and costs. This akin of abutment in InfoPath additionally lowers the amount of developing solutions that use this data, because the abstracts is represented and structured the way you charge it from the start.

As allotment of the action actuality appear by Microsoft and ACORD, we’ll assignment calm to actualize the Web casework basic that can attending up the destination of the data, which the user will be able to specify on the ACORD template, and automatically avenue it via a Web or FTP address, a fax server address, and so on, to the adapted area in XML format.

PressPass: Can you accommodate a book for how the ACORD forms account will work?

Lee: Say you accept a mid-size allowance bureau of about 30 employees, who use Microsoft Appointment 2003 to achieve the aggregate of their circadian responsibilities. This bureau belongs to a affairs offered through ACORD that provides admission to the latest ACORD/InfoPath templates, as able-bodied as the Web casework that abutment those forms. As I mentioned earlier, in the past, aback a abeyant chump calls or comes in the appointment to buy a new policy, the abettor would ample out either an cyberbanking or cardboard ACORD anatomy and fax it into the allowance aggregation of their choice, and the carrier would accept to rekey the abstracts again. But with the new service, the abettor would artlessly blazon the customer’s advice into an online or offline adaptation of the ACORD arrangement appliance InfoPath, which lets them save the offline adaptation for their own claimed files, and afresh hit the Accelerate on. The Web account would afresh avenue the advice to added forms, databases, back-end systems, added applications, or the allowance carrier, depending on which options the abettor clicked onscreen.

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That’s the accepted scenario, but it can become always added circuitous and value-added as above carriers appoint anon with the provider of these forms Web services. We see a lot of abeyant for all sizes of allowance carriers to body an absolute basement about these forms. They may use the ACORD forms or the ACORD forms additional addition 200 centralized forms, and they’ll appetite them all to accept the aforementioned attending and feel and the aforementioned XML capabilities so that they can tie the abstracts together. So we’re acquisitive to advance this account to all allowance companies as well, so that they can body that anatomy basement for themselves.

PressPass: What is Microsoft’s action for the allowance industry affective forward?

Lee: Our action in this apple is carefully affiliated to the eyes abaft Microsoft’s all-embracing XML Web casework strategy: to accomplish it accessible to create, access, and allotment XML abstracts amid altered systems on the network. With InfoPath, we accept for the aboriginal time an end-user artefact that natively supports XML appliance custom-driven schema. We appetite to use that adequacy affective advanced to abide to advance our and our partners’ articles so that calm we can advice the assorted players in the allowance industry abate transaction processing time, authoritative it as seamless and apple-pie as possible, from the advanced to the aback office.

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