Monday, December 18, 2006

Early adoptors aim to implement APEX standards

This week marks my one-year anniversary of joining the APEX Technology Advisory Committee (TAC). During this period, my company donated close to $50,000 in time and travel expenses towards the meeting industry's efforts to create XML standards for electronic data exchange. This investment was made on faith in the APEX goals, but I'll need to show a return on this investment by the time I reach my second-year anniversary. Here's how I plan to do that...

APEX Strategy

As I've described in many posts this year, APEX focussed its efforts in 2006 on creating XML standards through the Open Travel Alliance. We produced 3 schemas:

  • Single Facility Event RFP
  • Housing Rooming List
  • Event Specification Guide

Now that we have completed the XML framework, we decided to focus efforts in 2007 on implementation of the APEX XML standards in real-world applications. Our intention is to show the industry how they can use these standards to make their lives easier. Once we have proven this, we expect to get a flood of new "converts" to the APEX religion.

If development goes as planned, the MPI World Education Congress in Montreal on July 28-31, 2007 will be our big "coming-out" party. EJ Siwek (the APEX TAC chair) plans to host at least five 90-minute sessions in order to educate meeting professionals in attendance about the implementation of APEX standards within Certain Registration and other meeting planning software applications.

Implementation Plans

The current implementation phase is when the hard-core developers come out and do their stuff. While companies are free to implement APEX XML standards any way they please, I expect most organizations will build a "translator" interface between their proprietary database and the APEX standards. The process will look something like this:

The beauty of XML is that each company will only have to build the translator between their database application and the APEX/OTA standard. Data exchnage will use existing standards (e.g., SOAP / HTTP) that all web-based applications can readily accommodate, and standard processes (e.g., XSLT) exist for converting XML into document-based reports.

How to get involved

If you want to get involved in the implementation phase, then you (or someone who can read XML) need to do the following:

  • Join the APEX TAC at our web site ( Here you can download our calendar of meetings and add yourself to the notification email list.
  • Download the current XML standards (OTA 2006B) from the OpenTravel Alliance. This download contains hundreds of files, of which only a few apply to the APEX initiative for group travel / meeting planners:
    • OTA_MessageUsersGuide2006BV1.0.pdf - The "Message Users Guide" contains a high-level description of each OTA Message with sample use cases and XML instance documents.
    • \_OTA_CodeTable\OTA_CodeTable20061211.xls - The code table contains the text descriptors for OTA standard codes used in the XML messages. For example, the "Event Type" code 11 means "Sales Meeting"
    • \_OTA2006B_XML\OTA_HotelEventRQ.xsd - The XML schema for the Event Specification Guide (RQ is used for "Request" and RS is "Response")
    • \_OTA2006B_XML\OTA_HotelRFP_MeetingRQ.xsd - The XML schema for the Event RFP
    • \_OTA2006B_XML\OTA_HotelRoomListRQ.xsd - The XML schema for the Housing Rooming List
  • Download the latest version of the APEX standard reports in document format. These are available in the APEX Toolkit, or online at the APEX web site.
  • Get a copy of the APEX workbook from the TAC web site. The workbook is produced by APEX's "doc tool", and contains a translation from each field in the Word-document versions of the APEX reports and their corresponding elements in the APEX/OTA XML schemas.

In addition, I recommend getting a good XML editor - I used the Altova XMLSpy 2006 Professional Edition to help write the standards.

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