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Looking for ideas.  PDF form data to offline database.

Posted on 2012-03-20
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Last Modified: 2012-06-27
I have a small client that just landed a Federal government (US) contract.  

They need to collect information from application via a fill out PDF form into a database that for security reasons MUST be offline.  Adding to the complexity, the applicants need to have their supervisor vouch for them.  I'm looking for ideas of how to get this information into a disconnected database.  The database doesn't exist yet, so there's lots of options.  We're likely looking at MySQL due to cost.

I was thinking that an email might be able to be sent with the information (not confidential info) in a specific format.  Then that info could be imported into the database after insuring that it's valid.  There will be tens of thousands of applicants.  

The tricky part is how we can have the supervisor vouch for a person.  If there's no online accessible database, I'm having a hard time coming up with a method for the supervisor's paperwork to be matched to the applicant.

I know this is really a high level description, but throw some ideas out if you can...

Much appreciated.
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Question by:weinberk
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by:aikimark
ID: 37750634
I added a functionality a database application for one of my clients that did something similar.  The users have a PDF form that they fill out and email to us.  The database can import the PDF fields' data into the database.  There is some very simple validation at the form level and more on the back end.  The administrator will have to resolve any problems arising from the data validation problems.

Be aware that the field names are case sensitive.
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by:aburr
ID: 37755783
I am unsure what you mean by "The tricky part is how we can have the supervisor vouch for a person."
by "person" do you mean the sender of the e-mail? How can the supervisor vouch for the sender?
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by:weinberk
ID: 37760800
The applicant needs their immediate supervisor to essentially say "the applicant is a good person and capable of the job" (I'm calling that vouching).  

The client wants this to be done electronically.  We're talking about tens of thousands of applications a year, so the vouching process, essentially the supervisor ticking a box on a form, needs to automatically link to the applicants paperwork in the database.  The database will not be connected to a network that has internet access.  

I've been a devloper for 20+ years, but I really don't know that there's an answer to this, which it why I've come to EE.  We need a way to have the supervisor enter some sort of code or other mechanism that would automatically link the "vouching" to the application paperwork.
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by:aburr
ID: 37761325
How is the supervisor to know "the applicant is a good person and capable of the job"?
The supervisor cannot personally know 10,000applicants so perhaps the supervisor could put a check in his data base which would then be transferred.
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by:weinberk
ID: 37761437
There are many many many (many many) direct supervisors.  Let's not get into changing the requirements of the program - that's set in stone.    Forget the relationship, just think of it as a personal reference being added to an application that is sumbitted after the initial application has been sent in.

I'm just looking for a concept where a paper application or one sumbitted via email could then have a separate person be able to identify that specific application when vouching for the person.  Obviously the person vouching could use the person's name and address, but the address might not match what the applicant used (say if they used a home address instead of work).  The names should match, but Jim might use James, and there's tens of thousands of these....

I'm guessing there's not a way.
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aburr earned 400 total points
ID: 37761952
I am guessing that your guessing is right
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by:aikimark
aikimark earned 100 total points
ID: 37762983
@weinberk

We need context in order to properly/adequately advise you.
* Are there multiple supervisors for a worker?
* Do you capture the authorship of the original PDF form data?
* What are the allowable actions for a supervisor? (accept, decline, take no action, other)
* Do you have Sharepoint installed?

===========
This is a workflow issue.
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by:weinberk
ID: 37763242
@aikimark- You're right, this is absolutely a workflow question.

We do not have any systems in place for anything yet.  Sharepoint is an option, but probably won't be used.  We'll likely be building something using php or a framework like that.  

The key point here is that the database holding the application information will NOT housed on an internet connected server.  This is a requirement from the Government.  Hence the entire predicament.  If this was internet connected, it's easy: applicant submits application, is given a code to give to the supervisor, and the supervisor enters that code.

Being that these applications could come in via postal service on paper, emailed or possibly submitted through a website, I just don't know how to link the supervisors approval, which is done separately to the applicant.  Oh, and my clietn doesn't have a master database of all potential applicants and their supervisors, and never will.

Answering your questions:
* Are there multiple supervisors for a worker?  Yes, but only one needs to vouch for the applicant.

* Do you capture the authorship of the original PDF form data?  - What do you mean by authorship?  We're still trying to figure out how we can efficiently get the form information into the disconnected database.

* What are the allowable actions for a supervisor? (accept, decline, take no action, other)  Kind of irrelevant to my question, but it would be a simple question: "I vouch for this person," "I cannot vouch for this person"

* Do you have Sharepoint installed?  no, but we could if you have an idea for using it, I'm all ears

THANKS!
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by:aikimark
ID: 37763534
* How would you know which supervisors were eligible to judge any particular candidate?
* Are the supervisors allowed to see the PDF document? (in part or in whole)
* Do the supervisors know about the jobs?

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Unless you know the relationship between the applicant and their supervisors, there is no reliable way to implement such a workflow.  It would be possible for the supervisors to check in and review the applications, but that puts the onus on the supervisors to check in daily (regardless of whether there is anything to check or not) -- not a good design.

===========
>>What do you mean by authorship?
What information do you retain about the log-in ID of the applicant?

Importing data is secondary to the design.

Communication between HR/workflow can be implemented with email or, if need be, secure email.
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Author Closing Comment

by:weinberk
ID: 37787075
Not really a solution,  but confirmation that the client can't accomplish what they want in the way they want to "magically" do it.  Thanks for taking the time
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