Computer Applications in Business
Although computing devices are not as recent an invention as one might think, it was not until the latter part of the twentieth century that they reached a level of sophistication that enabled them to become common in the workplace. Computers enhance productivity at work, quickly and accurately performing many of the repetitive and tedious chores associated with document creation and editing, accounting, publishing, and record keeping. In addition, computers are invaluable for enhancing the way that people work together by providing the capabilities to share data, coordinate tasks, and quickly communicate. Computers also are invaluable for managing data and allow organizations to maintain and manipulate databases in ways that would be impossible without technology. The use of computers for business is not without risks and concerns, however, including both issues of security and concerns for the individual's right to privacy.
Keywords Application Software; Database; Enterprise; Information Technology; Local Area Network (LAN); Security; Wide Area Network (WAN)
Information Technology: Computer Applications in Business
As a species, human beings appear to be infinitely inventive and constantly searching for ways to improve their lives. Many important accomplishments and innovations resulting from this quest have changed the course of history along the way. Within the current lifetime, however, arguably none is more important than the progress that has been made in countless disciplines as well as everyday activities as a result of computer technology. The application of computers both at home and at work helps us to better organize our lives, more easily perform repetitive or logical tasks, and access our creativity. Like the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution before it, the Information Age continues to transform our lives and the ways in which we perform many of our tasks. The trend does not appear to be coming to a quick end, however, and it is reasonable to assume that the proliferation of technological invention and innovation will not continue to change the way that we do things well into the future.
The use of computers to assist in performing tedious tasks, however, is not a recent concept. For centuries, human beings have looked for ways to improve the accuracy of their computations and to better control the world around them. For example, the Antikythera Mechanism — the world's oldest known computing device — dates to the first century B.C. This complex, multi-geared device is believed to be an early analog computer that was designed to calculate astronomical positions. Despite such intriguing examples, however, computers did not come into their own until the mid-twentieth century. The cumbersome mainframe devices of the time were revolutionized in the 1970s with the invention of the microprocessor. This innovative technology led to the development of the personal computer that soon became commonplace both at home and at work.
Computers have become so much a part of many people’s lives that it is difficult to imagine life without them. In the workplace, computers allow workers to write letters, record financial transactions, and send both quick messages and lengthy documents to colleagues across the room or across the world. Computers automatically spell check correspondence and make suggestions on how to improve grammar. Computers allow workers to circumvent the art department and use presentation software to design business presentations in full color, illustrated with high-quality photographs and graphics, with just a few clicks of a mouse. Computers automatically synchronize the calendars in personal digital assistants or smartphones and chime merrily to remind us of appointments, tasks, and deadlines.
In the mid-twentieth century, computers were cumbersome things that belonged to the realm of big business problems and scientific research. For most people, correspondence and technical writing was literally penned by hand and sent to a secretary or a typing pool to be formalized on that modern wonder, the electric typewriter. The phrase "cut and paste" was literal: workers received the crisp white sheets of paper back from the unseen typing pool and proceeded to edit by hand, frequently using scissors and tape to rearrange paragraphs. Then suddenly lives were revolutionized by the advent of the word processor. Although these devices still were not on every desktop, the secretaries and typists were thrilled because they no longer had to type each draft from scratch; they could rearrange paragraphs, edit, and correct on electronically stored documents and print out a fresh edited copy in a fraction of the time that the work would have taken on a typewriter.
The first word processors were crude, however, when compared to the capabilities that are housed today within personal computers or laptops. They were unitaskers, useful only for typing, editing, and printing documents. Since the introduction of the personal computer to the workplace, the way that we do work has been transformed. Depending on the software applications that are installed on the computers, one can not only type and edit documents but also create layouts and designs for print. Electronic spreadsheets that automatically total columns of figures and quickly paste cells to other pages make the task of double-entry bookkeeping almost fun. Whether they work on independent personal computers or are part of a network, the ability to do carry out work using computers has impacted workers in a wide range of industries. The application of computers to business is virtually as unlimited as the tasks performed in the workplace.
The examples above illustrate just a few of the ways that computers can enhance individual productivity in the workplace. However, computers in the workplace are useful for much more than enhancing individual productivity. There are numerous applications of computer technology that can enhance the way that workers interact with each other and collaborate to enhance the productivity and effectiveness of the organization as a whole. Computers also are invaluable for storing and manipulating large collections of data in support of numerous tasks across the organization. In addition, the Internet has given businesses an entirely new medium for advertising products and services, gathering data about prospective customers and competitors, and selling products online.
Enterprise-Wide Computer Applications
By definition, an organization is a group of people that is organized to perform work or some other task. The fact that organizations are made up of more than one person gives them the opportunity to achieve synergy and accomplish more together than they could as isolated individuals. Modern computer technology can help in this task. In many businesses, computers are linked together over a local area network that allows multiple computers located near each other (e.g., in the same room or building) to share files and peripheral devices such as printers. This capability is particularly useful if a number of people need to work on the same document (e.g., inputting data, commenting on a document, creating reports from a database). Similarly, computers that are widely dispersed can be linked into a wide area network. Wide area networks typically use high-speed, long-distance communications networks or satellites to connect the computers within the network. Through them, employees can communicate and cooperate with colleagues in the next office and across the globe.
The linking of computers through networks can enhance the productivity and effectiveness of the entire enterprise. For example, computerized cash registers in a retail store or other points of sale can be linked together so that sales clerks can search across the network to see whether other stores have a particular item in stock. Similarly, the computers at the point of sale can be linked directly to the corporate headquarters so that the store's closing data each evening can be directly and immediately shared with corporate management....
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