Office Automation System (OAS):
Definition and Explanation:
Office Automation (OA) is the use of technology to help people do their jobs better and faster.
"The use of computers, micro electronics, and telecommunications to help us
produce, store, obtain and send information in the form of pictures, words or
numbers, more reliably, quickly and economically."
During the past 25 years, computer technology has helped to dramatically
increase productivity in the office. The movements towards automation in the new
hardware and software technologies like word processors, spreadsheets,
electronic mail, and so on, which make office workers more productive, These
combinations of technologies that have a dramatic impact on day-to-day office
operations are called office information systems (OIS). In this chapter, we
explore office information system, and how they evolved.
|The Nature of Office
|Generally, an office is a place where staff and line professionals,
secretaries, and clerks perform management and administrative tasks. The big
difference between today's office and that of the previous decade, modern
offices use electronic communication, office oriented technologies therefore
called electronic office or paperless office. '
The management and administrative tasks performed in the office can 'be divided
into five general categories:
- Decision making
- Data manipulation
- Document handling
Types of Office Automation Systems:
Three major types/categories of office applications are:
1. Document management systems
2. Message handling systems
3. Teleconferencing systems
1. Document Management Systems:
a. Word Processing:
Word processing software lets you create, edit, store, retrieve, and print a
text document. Let us examine each part of the definition.
Text document is any text that can be keyed in, such as a memo, letter, fax, and
Creation is the original composing and keying in of the document,
Editing is making changes to the document to fix errors or improve its content,
like deleting a sentence, correcting a misspelled name, or moving a paragraph.
refers to adjusting the appearance of the document to
make it look appropriate and attractive. For example, centralize the heading,
make wider margins, or use of double spacing.
Storing the document means saving it on disk so it can be accessed on demand.
Retrieving the document means bringing the stored document from disk back into
computer memory so it can be used again or
changed some way.
Printing is producing the document on paper, using a printer connected with the
Difference Between Typewriter and Word
Some people think that WP is a glorified typing, but there are many advantages
of WP on typewriter. The main difference between the typewriter and WP is the
separation of typing from printing; when you use WP, typing the document and
printing the document do not occur at the same time; you print the document on
the paper whenever you like. Perhaps you want to print an intermediate draft,
just to see how it looks, and then continue making changes.
Second difference between WP and typewriter is that you can save/store your
keyed data when you use a word processing package. You can make changes as you
go along, or even at some later time, and print out a revised or perfect copy.
The key difference here is that only the changes themselves are retyped, not the
The ability to print at will and to store work distinguishes WP from typewriter.
But these are not the only two hallmarks. A word processing package is a
sophisticated tool with many options, which are as follows:
|Standard Entering &
|Standard Print Formatting Operations
- Moving the cursor to various places on-screen.
- Scrolling the document up and
- Returning lines automatically.
- Inserting and deleting characters and
blocks of text.
- Moving and copying blocks of text.
- Searching for text strings.
- Replacing text strings.
- Spelling checker feature.
- Thesaurus feature
- Adjusting line spacing
- Indenting blocks of text
- Reformatting blocks of text
- Centering text Proportionally spaced characters
- Automatic page numbering, headings, and footings
- Multiple columns per page
- Selection of fonts
- Mailing list preparation
- Form letter
- Math feature
- Redlining and edit tracing
- Preparing indexes and tables of contents
- Integrating with
- Desktop publishing features
- Embedded typesetting codes
b. Desktop Publishing:
Desktop publishing (DTP) enables you to produce well-designed pages that
combine charts and graphics with text and headlines in a variety off typefaces,
it lets you to do all this at your desk, without a ruler, pen or paste.
Desktop publishing is software involve, using a microcomputer, mouse, scanner,
laser or Ink Jet printer, for mixing text,, and graphics to produce high quality
output for commercial printing.
The features of DTP include:
Principle of Good Design:
Desktop publishing programmers put many different fonts and images at your
disposal, but you can overwhelm a document if you crowd too much on to a page.
The guidelines that follow will help get favorable reviews for you and your
- Use only two or three typefaces in a document.
- Be conservative: Limit the use of decorative or unusual typefaces.
- Use different sizes and styles of one typeface to distinguish between
different heading levels, rather than several typefaces.
- Avoid cluttering a document with fancy border and symbols.
- Do not use type that is too small to read easily just to fit everything on one
c. Image Processing System:
Some firms have large volume of documents that must be maintained in files so
that the information can be retrieved when needed. Insurance companies and banks
fit in to this category. Initially these firms maintained files in paper form,
but the space requirement became intolerable. The solution was to store an image
of the document rather than the document itself. This office automation
application (AO) has recently being given the name imaging processing system and
is currently stimulating the most interest.
Image processing system is also called electronic image management system, allow
users to electronically capture, store, process, and retrieve images of
documents. These documents may include text, numeric data, handwriting, graphics
and photographs. In some cases these may be part of the same document.
Image processing technology promises to reduce the problem of paper overload by
providing information management with more efficient use of physical storage
space and increased productivity.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR), scanners are used to convert paper or
microfilm records to a digital format for storage in secondary storage devices.
Once stored, the images can be retrieved for displaying or printing.
Image processing system is used in problem solving when it is necessary to
review historical documents for the purpose of understanding a problem. An
operator accesses the document management system from a workstation and produces a hardcopy output for the
Reprographics is the process of reproducing multiple copies of a document.
Office personnel are usually responsible for making more than one copy of a
report, letter, or other documents. When documents are widely distributed,
either internally or externally, reprographics often includes collating,
folding, binding, or related tasks.
Multiple copies may be made in various ways. When only a few copies are
required, it may be cost effective to print out multiple copies using the
printer attached to the computer. Most of the time, however, photocopier is
2. Message Handling Systems:
Telex is the service, which enables user to transmit and receive printed
messages over a telephone line. Users have to be telex subscribers, with their
own telex equipment and code number, in order to send or receive messages. The
telex service started in 1930 and from the mid 1970s it developed significantly
as an international message transmission system.
Data transmission speed as compare to other methods of telecommunication is very
slow and only a restricted set of characters can be used in messages.
Fax machine connected to a telephone, uses computer technology and
communications links to send quality graphics, charts, text and handwritings
almost everywhere in the world. The sending material (paper) is placed in the
fax machine at one end, where it is digitized. Those digits are transmitted
across the miles and then reassembled at the other end to form identical version
of the original. All this activity takes only minute or less.
Personal computer users can send and receive faxes directly by means of a
fax/modem. The only missing ingredient in the scheme is paper.
Fax is not only faster than overnight delivery services, but it is also less
expensive. Fax contributes to problem solving by sending
documents to member of the problem solving team quickly and easily,
regardless of their geographic location.
Teletext is a system for supplying commercial and other information through
existing television networks. The data such as news, weather, sports reports,
stock market data, airline and train schedules, TV guides etc. is transmitted
via a television channel at the same time that the channel is being used to
broadcast conventional television.
d. Videotext (Viewdata):
Videotext or Viewdata gives a home user access to information in databases via a
personal computer or converted television set. The method of Access is via
telephone lines, coaxial cable, or optical
Videotext is similar to Teletext in that it provides electronic reference to
material but there are two main differences.
- Firstly it is available to subscribers only.
- Secondly it provides two-way communication. This means that users can
interrogate the data held in the system and also supply information to it. The
system uses a combination of telephones, computers, television, and communication networks.
e. Electronic Mail:
E-mail is the process of sending messages directly from one computer to another.
In this system the sender transmits the message over the telephone network to a
central computer, which allocates disk storage to act as an electronic mail box
for each user. Using a password for secret purposes the user then can collect
the message when required.
Several optional features of E-mail are
- If you want everyone in the firm with a terminal to read the message, it is
placed on an electronic bulletin board, which everyone can access.
- If you want to receive confirmation when the recipient retrieves your message,
it can be sent as registered mail.
- If you do not want the recipient to route the messages to others in the
network, you can send it as private mail.
- Speed: (electronic transmission is almost instantaneous)
- Economy: (no speed for stamp, labor, paper)
- Efficiency: (a message is prepared once but can be sent to thousands at the
touch of a button)
- Security: (access can be restricted by the use of password)
- Document can be retrieved and stored to word processing and graphic packages.
- Electronic delivery and receipt can be requested.
Manners For E-Mailers
|Never forget you are dealing with real people, even if you cannot see them,
so do as you would be done by. Do not forward inappropriate comments on the
relationships of strangers. Would you want the world to read about your own?
Like a letter, an e-mail benefits from an opening greeting and a
sincerely-type sign off. You will be judged on"'-how you express yourself. When
first making contact, formally is the safe option.
It is wrong to break the law just because you can get away with it online.
Copying music, programs and images without permission is theft.
Fill in an e-mail's subject box, anyone dealing with a large volume of e-mail
will be grateful to be able to assess it at a glance and find it again in a
Ask before sending large attachments such as picture files or video clips,
They take a long time to download and, if they exceed the inbox limit, can stop
the recipient receiving mail.
Avoid clever formatting. Bold, centered text might look impressive on your
screen, but 9 times out of 10 it will be vague by the recipient's program.
Beware of sending e-mail to big groups listed on incoming messages: do you
really want to Reply To All? Does everyone you know (and some people you do not)
really want to read every joke you receive? Forwarding chain e-mails and fake
virus warnings will not win you friends.
Stay cool. Everyone benefits from good manners. If someone forwards a virus,
point out the error of their ways but do not Reply To All.
If some aspect of computing confuses you, the chances are you can find the
answer in one of the web's lists of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). It Is
rude to waste a helpdesk's time simply because you cannot be bothered to deploy
a search engineer read. the manual.
- The necessity for users to have a terminal close at hand, otherwise messages
can't be received or sent.
- Electronic mail handles only one-way communication. However, if you desire
two-way conversation, you must either send multiple e-mail messages back and
forth or use another medium.
- The limitation of only being able to communicate with registered users, but
not with other parties.
f. Voice Mail:
A voice mail system enables a regular voice message, sent over the phone, to be
digitally stored at the receiving location. When accessed, the message is
converted back into voice form. These are used by an increasing number of
organizations and often employ software that runs on the organization's private
box exchange (PBX) equipment, rather than on the organization's host computers.
Voice mail systems require a computer, disk storage, and voice mailboxes that
are similar to E-mailboxes. However, the sending and receiving instrument is the
telephone. Like E-mail messages, digitized voice messages can be played back,
sent along to one or more other members of the organization, saved, or deleted.
As it is sent along from person to person, a message can usually be;
voice-annotated by anyone handling it.
With voice mail, one person calls a voice mailbox rather than a personal
phone number. In stand-alone voice systems, the message is simply stored,
awaiting pick-up by the person receiving the message; in integrated voice
mail/PBX, the message receiver has the option of picking up the phone. People
can usually access their voice mailboxes from any telephone (both inside and
outside the organization). The telephone keypad is used to listen to messages in
the mailbox, save them, delete them, or send them to others. This permits field
representatives or traveling executives to maintain contact with the home office
and to keep up with their messages. Salespeople can use these systems to enter
orders over the telephone from the customer's office. Some universities are
using voice mail systems to enable students to register for classes. All of
these applications can provide organizations with a competitive edge.
Is voice mail just a fancy answering machine? They serve similar purposes, but
do not use the same storage techniques. A voice mail system translates the word
of message into digital impulses, which it then stores on disk, just as any
g. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI):
Paper handling is the bane of organizations. Paper must be transmitted, filed,
and stored. It takes up much of people's time and requires the felling of
considerable number of trees. Is there a way to accomplish the same business
tasks without using the paper?
One answer lies in business-to-business transactions conducted via computer
network. Electronic data interchange (EDI) is direct electronic exchange between
organization's computer systems of standard business documents such as invoices,
Businesses use a great deal of paper in transmitting orders. One method devised
to cut down on paperwork is electronic data interchange (EDI). EDI is a series
of standard formats that allow businesses to transmit invoices, purchase orders,
etc. electronically. In addition to eliminating paper-based ordering forms, EDI
can help to eliminate errors in transmitting orders that result from
transcription mistakes made by people. Since EDI orders go directly from one
computer to another, the tedious process of filling out a form at one end and
then keying it into the computer at the other end is eliminated.
Many firms use EDI to reduce paperwork and personnel costs. Some large firms,
especially discounters, require their suppliers to adopt EDI and, in fact, have
direct computer hookups with their suppliers.
h. Electronic Fund Transfers: Instant Banking:
Using electronic fund transfers (EFT), people can pay for goods and services by
having funds transferred from various accounts electronically, using computer
technology. One of the most visible demonstrations of EFT is the ATM, the
automated teller machine that people use to obtain cash quickly. For example,
make payments to a supplier, or pay salaries into employees' bank accounts, or
transfer funds from one bank account to another account by sending electronic
data to his bank.
Electronic funds transfers are not limited to transfers between institutions and
individuals. Banks and other financial institutions transfer funds among
themselves electronically, on both the national and international level.
i. Bulletin Boards:
Person-to-person data communication is one of the more exciting ways of using
your personal computer. A bulletin board system (BBS) uses data communications
systems to link personal computers to provide public-access-message systems.
Most bulletin boards are formed to benefit people in a club or with a common
hobby; others are linked to a particular business. Electronic bulletin boards
are similar to the bulletin boards you see in student lounges. Somebody leaves a
message, but the person who picks it up does not have to know the person who
left it. To get access to someone else's computer, all you really have to know
is that computer's bulletin board phone number. You can use any kind of
computer, but you need a modem so you can communicate over the phone lines.
Anyone who has a personal computer can set up a bulletin board. It takes a
computer, a phone line, a modem, and particular software. You just tell a few
people about your board, start up your computer using the BBS software, and sit
back and watch the messages start scrolling down your screen. But note that your
computer must be left on to receive the calls.
3. Teleconferencing Systems:
The term teleconferencing refers to electronic meetings that involve people
who are at physically different sites. Telecommunication technology systems
allow meeting participants to interact with one another without traveling to the
same location. The major types of teleconferencing
a. Audio conferencing
b. Video conferencing
c. Computer conferencing
a. Audio Teleconferencing:
Audio teleconferencing (conference phone calls) enables participants to hear
each other only. A speakerphone may be used at one or more locations to allow
groups to participate in the meeting. Audio teleconferencing is by far the least
b. Video Conferencing:
Want to have a meeting with someone across the country .and go over some
documents, without having to go there? Videoconferencing is a method whereby
people in different geographical locations can have a meeting, and see and hear
one another, using computers and communications.
Videoconferencing systems range from small videophones to group conference rooms
with cameras and multimedia equipment. The system combines voice and television
images that allow two or more groups to interact with one another. Video
teleconferencing was first widely demonstrated in 1964 at New York's World Fair
when AT&T introduced its picture-phone.
Generally, video teleconferencing participants gather in relatively expensive,
specially equipped rooms that can handle the complexities of simultaneous video
and audio transmission. In business applications, video teleconferencing can be
particularly effective because interaction between people is usually different
when they can see each other.
c. Computer Conferencing:
Computer conferencing involves computer terminals and E-mail or electronic
Bulletin boards. Conference participants broadcast messages to each other (or
post them on a common electronic bulletin board); participants do not have to be
present to receive messages. The messages are keyed in and then displayed on
computer screens; hence, the "conversations" that take place are electronic.
Computer conferencing is a method of sending, receiving, and storing typed
messages within a network of users.
Computer conferencing can be particularly useful in project management. As
critical pieces of a project are finished, possibly at numerous geographically
dispersed sites, this information is recorded in the public electronic mailboxes
of each project manager so that he has a real-time update on both costs and
progress. The project managers can also communicate with each other through the
mailboxes regarding any unusual events or any other important matters.
Improvements in data communications, increased power of PCs and changes in
working practices are leading to the spread of telecommuting. This allows
employees to work at home using computer equipment, which is linked via the
public communications network to computers in head office.
Telecommuting is beneficial to both employers and to their employees. Office
accommodation costs are reduced, physical commuting is reduced to a minimum, and
employees are not forced to live near their offices.
- Less office space and furniture needed
- Gives access to employees who may find conventional or full time employment
- Difficulty in controlling employees and ensuring they are
- Data and confidential Information will be less secure
- Higher communication costs
- Lack of company culture- and values
- Less time and expense traveling to and from work
- More flexibility
- Fewer interruptions than at the office (depends on home environment)
- Space taken up at home with office equipment
- Lack of social rewards from being, part of an office
- No definite distinction between office and home can lead to longer working
- More Interruptions than at the office (depends on home