Office automation systems are computer based information systems that collect, process, store and transmit electronic messages, documents and other forms of communications among individuals, work groups and organizations. Such systems can increase the productivity of managerial end users and other professional and staff personnel by significantly reducing the time and effort needed to produce, access and receive business communications.

An overview of office automation systems are given below:
1)    Office publishing systems are word processing and desktop publishing systems.
2)    Image processing systems are image processing, optical scanning and storage, document management and interactive video systems.
3)    Electronic communication systems are electronic meeting, tele-conferencing and telecommunicating systems.

Office support systems are electronic calendar, ticket file, notebook, directory system, work scheduling and task management systems. The above are described in brief:

Office publishing systems

Word processing – It is the use of computer systems to automate the transformation of ideas into a readable form of communication. It involves manipulating text data to produce information products in the form of documents (letters, memos, forms and reports).

Desktop publishing – Organisations can use and develop publishing systems to produce their own printed materials. They can design and print their own newsletters, manuals, brochures and books with several types of styles and graphics and colours on each page.

Voice store and forward systems – It is also known as voice mail or structured verbal-response exchanges. It has the capability of storing verbal data and/or communicating it to another location. It is one of the latest systems and found useful to corporate houses and the society at large.

Electronic Meeting systems – If electronic meeting systems are used, people may not appreciate spending money on travel to attend meetings away from their normal work location. It involves the use of video and audio communications to allow conferences and meetings to be held with participants who may be scattered across a room, a building or a country. It saves employee’s time, increase productivity, reduce total expenses and energy consumptions. This is also promoted in the Group decision support systems, because they promote more efficient and effective decision-making by various groups of people.

Teleconferencing – Participants at remote sites key in their presentation and responses whenever convenient for their online terminals or workstations which are connected to a central conference computer. Since all participants don’t have to do this at the same time, this form of EMS is called computer’s conferencing. Sessions are held in real time with major participants at remote site who take part with voice input of questions and responses.

Telecommuting – It is the use of telecommunications by workers to replace commuting enabling them to work from their homes. It is also used to describe the use of telecommunication to carry on work activities from temporary locations other than offices and homes. Some people consider telecommuting as the creation of virtual offices. They use electronic mail and voice mail to communicate with each other about job assignments.

Multimedia – Another evolving set of technologies for systematically managing graphics, drawings and photographs in addition to text and data are multimedia data management systems. Some of these are called hypermedia systems. These systems use computers and information technology to incorporate text, data, graphics, video and audio within a single application.

Multimedia pertains to technologies that facilitate the integration of two or more types of media such as text, graphics, sound, voice, full motion video or animation into a computer based application. Since 1990s, multimedia will be the foundation of new consumer products and services such as electronic books, newspapers, electronic classroom presentation technologies, full motion video conferencing, imaging, graphics design tools and video electronic and voice mail.

Once a multimedia application is developed, users can press a key on the keyboard or a button on a mouse to retrieve loads of text information. Video clips can be run with the press of another button. Other buttons can activate related narration or music via an attached sound system. In multimedia databases, users can obtain data and information about an entry in a variety of formats including text, data, still photos and audio and video clips. Multimedia databases and applications are rapidly growing in popularity. Multimedia is providing powerful tools for sales presentation. Honeywell Inc. at Minneapolis uses video and audio on laptop computers to describe its products and services.  By providing all its 600 sales representatives with the same multimedia presentation using lap-tops, the company found it could promote its products in a more consistent manner.

Organisational applications for multimedia are manly because multimedia is likely to be a major instrument for obtaining corporate information. If multimedia and telecommunication technologies are combined, desktop-to-desktop video conferencing and file sharing become feasible and enable people to change across organization to meet and interact. All future computers, regardless of size are expected to have built in multimedia capabilities combining existing text and numbers with music, full motion and still frame video, animation, voice messages, telephones and fax capabilities. The future will see steady and impressive progress towards faster chips at lower cost and microprocessors with the power of today’s mainframes or supercomputers.

Image processing systems

These represent a final way, on the basis of which companies work with photographs, graphs and document images that can be handled easily by a traditional database. With multimedia systems, the user can be provided with information in a variety of formats, whereas image based database are sufficient for users in many applications. Advances in optical storage and document scanning technologies have made these attractive options for many organizations. It is possible to create and store documents that contain an image or photograph of a source document. It can include the picture of an employee in an employee file or assist inventory clerks to identify stock items.

Image processing systems, also known as electronic image management system, allow users to electronically capture, store, process and retrieve images of documents. Image database management systems are becoming more versatile. The LAN-based image processing systems are also being common, which include several servers each dedicated to a specific function.

Document management systems

These systems are sophisticated image processing systems. These often interface with other office systems such as word processing, desktop publishing, electronic mail, voice mail etc.

These systems allow digitized ‘voice notes’ to be attached to specific document images and may have other special features as well as the ability to store multi-colour documents and colour photographs.

The Automated Office

The goal is to make the office more efficient and effective. In implementing office automation, one has to eliminate time wasting activities and avoid duplication of effort. To achieve this goal, data must never be executed more than once, must be able to communicate the data to the appropriate persons or location. The modern office may be automated through the use of data processing, data communications, word processing, electronic mail and voice store and forward systems etc.

Office automation is defined as a separate sub-system or included within information processing. It includes a wide range of support facilities for knowledge work and activities. When first introduced, it was typically referred only to be replacement of typewriters by word processors. Now office automation is highly inter-related with data processing and telecommunications. Therefore, there is an organizational theory basis for assigning all three functions to a single organizational function, namely information systems or information resources. LAN and WAN are key components for integrating office automation functions and providing access to data processing facilities.

As more white collar jobs require access to computers and communication technology, other physical materials become less important. Electronic and voice mail extend the capability of the telephone to contact another person without being physically present. Information technology removes the physical constraints of being ‘in the office 9 to 5’. This location and time independence of office jobs permit a greater number of options for physical location and organizational facilities.

Three possibilities are in various stages of discussion and experimentation: Satellite work centers, neighborhood work centers and work at home. In the first one, employee may go to the satellite center, which is equipped with terminals, printers and teleconferencing facilities rather than commuting to the central office. The neighbourhood work centre shares the facility to the employee of many organizations. The third one is to work at home, is not significant because managers feel uncomfortable supervising employees. They can not see and also many employees prefer the social interaction the office provides rather than isolation of being at home.

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