Integration with Business Data

OpenXML enables organizations to integrate productivity applications with information systems that manage business processes by enabling the use of custom schemas within OpenXML documents. An organization’s goals in taking this approach would be to reuse and to automate the processing of business information that is otherwise buried opaquely inside documents, where business applications cannot read or write it.

Applications include:

  • Search: An end user could search a collection of spreadsheets for companies with profit margins exceeding 20%.

  • Metadata tagging: A firm could tag presentations that have been approved from a regulatory perspective.

  • Document assembly: A proposal group could streamline proposal generation by automating the preparation of the underlying data.

  • Data reuse: A sales executive could generate a report of all sales contracts in a given date range, listing customers, deal sizes, and any modified terms and conditions.

  • Line-of-business applications: Professionals in a specialized vertical could prepare deliverables in a familiar authoring environment, yet have their work products flow automatically into business systems.

Accomplishing these goals requires defining the structure and the type of data that a class of documents can contain, and allowing the information to be revealed wherever it occurs naturally within the flow of each document. Consider the simple example of a résumé. One would define a data structure that includes fields called name, phone number, address, career goals, and qualifications. One would then arrange for those fields to appear wherever human authors happen to put them in a document. In a different business setting, such as a finance group or a medical center, the structure and the data fields would be different.

OpenXML allows this process to occur in a standardized fashion.

First, the structure of the business data is first expressed using a custom XML schema. This allows an organization to express data with tags that are meaningful from a business perspective. An organization can create its own schemas, or use industry standard schemas such as XBRL for financial reporting (7) and HL7 for health-care information(8). Schemas are being created in the public sector, inside corporations, and as industry standards, for purposes ranging from birth certificates to insurance information. Any custom schema can be used, as long as it is expressed in XSD form (2).

Second, the custom data are embedded in any OpenXML document in a Custom XML part (§3.7.3) and can be described using a Custom XML Data Properties part (§4:7.5). By separating these custom data from presentation, OpenXML enables clean data integration, while enabling end-user presentation and manipulation within a wide variety of contexts, including documents, forms, slides, and spreadsheets. Interoperability can thus be achieved at a more fundamental and semantically accurate level.