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Office Automation Systems

Office Automation Systems

Office automation systems (OAS) are configurations of networked computer hardware and software. A variety of office automation systems are now applied to business and communication functions that used to be performed manually or in multiple locations of a company, such as preparing written communications and strategic planning. In addition, functions that once required coordinating the expertise of outside specialists in typesetting, printing, or electronic recording can now be integrated into the everyday work of an organization, saving both time and money.

Types of functions integrated by office automation systems include (1) electronic publishing; (2) electronic communication; (3) electronic collaboration; (4) image processing; and (5) office management. At the heart of these systems is often a local area network (LAN) . The LAN allows users to transmit data, voice, mail, and images across the network to any destination, whether that destination is in the local office on the LAN, or in another country or continent, through a connecting network. An OAS makes office work more efficient and increases productivity.

Electronic Publishing

Electronic publishing systems include word processing and desktop publishing. Word processing software, (e.g., Microsoft Word, Corel Word-Perfect) allows users to create, edit, revise, store, and print documents such as letters, memos, reports, and manuscripts. Desktop publishing software (e.g., Adobe Pagemaker, Corel VENTURA, Microsoft Publisher) enables users to integrate text, images, photographs, and graphics to produce high-quality printable output. Desktop publishing software is used on a microcomputer with a mouse, scanner, and printer to create professional-looking publications. These may be newsletters, brochures, magazines, or books.

Electronic Communication

Electronic communication systems include electronic mail (e-mail), voice mail, facsimile (fax), and desktop videoconferencing.

Electronic Mail.

E-mail is software that allows users, via their computer keyboards, to create, send, and receive messages and files to or from anywhere in the world. Most e-mail systems let the user do other sophisticated tasks such as filter, prioritize, or file messages; forward copies of messages to other users; create and save drafts of messages; send "carbon copies"; and request automatic confirmation of the delivery of a message. E-mail is very popular because it is easy to use, offers fast delivery, and is inexpensive. Examples of e-mail software are Eudora, Lotus Notes, and Microsoft Outlook.

Voice Mail.

Voice mail is a sophisticated telephone answering machine. It digitizes incoming voice messages and stores them on disk. When the recipient is ready to listen, the message is converted from its digitized version back to audio, or sound. Recipients may save messages for future use, delete them, or forward them to other people.

Facsimile.

A facsimile or facsimile transmission machine (FAX) scans a document containing both text and graphics and sends it as electronic signals over ordinary telephone lines to a receiving fax machine. This receiving fax recreates the image on paper. A fax can also scan and send a document to a fax modem (circuit board) inside a remote computer. The fax can then be displayed on the computer screen and stored or printed out by the computer's printer.

Desktop Videoconferencing

Desktop videoconferencing is one of the fastest growing forms of videoconferencing. Desktop videoconferencing requires a network and a desktop computer with special application software (e.g., CUSeeMe) as well as a small camera installed on top of the monitor. Images of a computer user from the desktop computer are captured and sent across the network to the other computers and users that are participating in the conference. This type of videoconferencing simulates face-to-face meetings of individuals.

Electronic Collaboration

Electronic collaboration is made possible through electronic meeting and collaborative work systems and teleconferencing. Electronic meeting and collaborative work systems allow teams of coworkers to use networks of microcomputers to share information, update schedules and plans, and cooperate on projects regardless of geographic distance. Special software called groupware is needed to allow two or more people to edit or otherwise work on the same files simultaneously.

Teleconferencing is also known as videoconferencing. As was mentioned in the discussion of desktop videoconferencing earlier, this technology allows people in multiple locations to interact and work collaboratively using real-time sound and images. Full teleconferencing, as compared to the desktop version, requires special-purpose meeting rooms with cameras, video display monitors, and audio microphones and speakers.

Telecommuting and Collaborative Systems.

Telecommuters perform some or all of their work at home instead of traveling to an office each day, usually with the aid of office automation systems, including those that allow collaborative work or meetings. A microcomputer, a modem, software that allows the sending and receiving of work, and an ordinary telephone line are the tools that make this possible.

Telecommuting is gaining in popularity in part due to the continuing increase in population, which creates traffic congestion, promotes high energy consumption, and causes more air pollution. Telecommuting can help reduce these problems. Telecommuting can also take advantage of the skills of homebound people with physical limitations.

Studies have found that telecommuting programs can boost employee morale and productivity among those who work from home. It is necessary to maintain a collaborative work environment, however, through the use of technology and general employee management practices, so that neither on-site employees nor telecommuters find their productivity is compromised by such arrangements. The technologies used in electronic communication and teleconferencing can be useful in maintaining a successful telecommuting program.

Image Processing

Image processing systems include electronic document management, presentation graphics, and multimedia systems. Imaging systems convert text, drawings, and photographs into digital form that can be stored in a computer system. This digital form can be manipulated, stored, printed, or sent via a modem to another computer. Imaging systems may use scanners, digital cameras, video capture cards , or advanced graphic computers. Companies use imaging systems for a variety of documents such as insurance forms, medical records, dental records, and mortgage applications.

Presentation graphics software uses graphics and data from other software tools to create and display presentations. The graphics include charts, bullet lists, text, sound, photos, animation, and video clips. Examples of such software are Microsoft Power Point, Lotus Freelance Graphics, and SPC Harvard Graphics.

Multimedia systems are technologies that integrate two or more types of media such as text, graphic, sound, voice, full-motion video, or animation into a computer-based application. Multimedia is used for electronic books and newspapers, video conferencing, imaging, presentations, and web sites.

Office Management

Office management systems include electronic office accessories, electronic scheduling, and task management. These systems provide an electronic means of organizing people, projects, and data. Business dates, appointments, notes, and client contact information can be created, edited, stored, and retrieved. Additionally, automatic reminders about crucial dates and appointments can be programmed. Projects and tasks can be allocated, subdivided, and planned. All of these actions can either be done individually or for an entire group. Computerized systems that automate these office functions can dramatically increase productivity and improve communication within an organization.

see also Decision Support Systems; Desktop Publishing; Information Systems; Productivity Software; Social Impact; Word Processors.

Charles R. Woratschek

Bibliography

FitzGerald, Jerry, and Alan Dennis. Business Data Communications and Networking, 6th ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999. Hutchinson, Sarah E., and Stacey C. Sawyer.

Computers, Communications, and Information: A User's Introduction, 7th ed. Boston: Irwin McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Jackson, Maggie. "Companies Seek to End Their Offices' Paper Chase; Technology: Pioneering Businesses Go Electronic to Raise Productivity." Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1998.

Laudon, Kenneth C., and Jane Price Laudon. Essentials of Management Information Systems: Transforming Business and Management, 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1999.

Sipress, Alan. "Initiative to Encourage Telecommuting; Regional Goal Is to Double Number of People Working From Home or in Centers." Washington Post, April 12, 2000.

Videoconferencing, also known as teleconferencing, is the real-time transmission of video and audio signals to enable people in two or more locations to hold a meeting.

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