Office Automation and consultancy services share a lot of common ground in that much of what ICT touches on involves the automation or facilitation of clerical functions. When thinking of clerical functions the mind visualises the writing of letters, posting of invoices to ledgers and the keeping of records.
The Paperless Office
Computers up to now have increased our capacity to produce paper but have done little to reduce the amount of paper one has to deal with in the office. To reduce paper in the office, there are two approaches that must be imployed:
- Firstly, you must deal with customers and vendors who, for whatever reason, have not developed ways of communicating with you electronically. This can take the form or bank statements, electricity bills, registration notices, even fliers left in the letter box that are of interest or need to be circulated amongst the staff. With these you have two choices. One is to put them in a circulation file in hardcopy, the other is to scan them into a digital form and then send them by some means around the office, as well as eventually file them if they should be of lasting interest. If you're trying to reduce paper in the office, the approach you have to take is to scan the documents and then have the means of sending them around the office electronically. Likewise, once scanned, you have to have the means of cataloguing them and filing the scannings within a database for possible later retrieval.
- Secondly, if you want to deal only in digital forms of communication, you will soon find that the present office products provided by firms such as Microsoft do not go a long way towards eliminating paper. The most common means of communciation in any modern bureaucracy is by email, and yet email is not really a mature form of communication. Any discerning person who has used Microsoft's Outlook will tell you that. Outlook does not automatically format communications into the sorts of business formats we would associate with such things as Minutes, Demi-official and Official letters. What's needed is an application that acts like email but has many other features such as:
- The ability to catalogue a document for the purposes of filing before the document is created.
- Provide the means by which the document can be filed and later retrieved.
- Assist the author with the format and layout of the document so that it complies with the writing standard of that business.
- Provide the clerical equivalent of a workshop job planning and scheduling system. After all writing a letter consumes labour and materials and requires tools and reference materials, no different to a manufacturing operation. In a similar vein, editing a document is no different to repairing an existing piece of equipment. We would consider running a workshop without a job planning and scheduling system so why is it that we find running an office full of clerks and managers without one acceptable?
- Lastly, you need the means to distribute the communciation once it is ready for dispatch. This need is only partially satisfied by email as it presently stands. NVTech using the experience gained from APPC's support operations is well progressed in developing a solution to this with an application called CAESARS; standing for Communications, Administration, Execution, Storage and Retrieval System. To learn more about this click here.
In recent years, there have been significant steps made in scanning technologies whilst the cost of digital storage has plummeted.
APPC can supply and install high speed (30+ pages per minute) scanners at prices that are amongst the most competitive in the market. Likewise, network ready storage is exceedingly cheap these days; particularly if coupled with the Linux Operating System - an operating system that is renowned for being stable, secure and most of all free of all licence fees.
We write and are constantly developing new software which will drive these scanners and allow you to access the images on your network. You can even perform character recognition wherein the images of text are reconstructed by your computer back into typed text for use by your word processor, reducing significantly your need to retype documents you have stored as images.
All this can reduce substantially the need for conventional document storage with its attendant costs and storage space requirements whilst at the same time actually improve your ability to retrieve documents in a timely manner for your customers.
Office Suites of software today provide the facility, using such tools as Visual Basic, to integrate Word Processing, Spreadsheets and Databases into a comprehensive office productivity tool. We have the expertise to do this. You have the ideas as to what you need to make your business better. Working together, we can create a powerful suite of software to make your office more productive.