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A Brief History of Computers in Business

Are you living in the past?

In the 1960s,

You heard that computers would automate so much of your work, that you could fire a lot of your clerical staff and save money. Companies made huge investments in mainframe systems to perform repetitive tasks.

In the 1970s,

You discovered that the people who performed those manual functions had a great deal of knowledge about your company and your systems.   While many of the tasks that they used to perform were now automated, thier jobs were not eliminated; they evolved.  You weren't saving money by eliminating people; you were making more money by doing a better job.  This was the beginning of using the information provided by computer systems to run your company.

In the 1980s,

You thought that putting a PC on all of your mangers' desktops would make them all more productive.  But without the network infrastructure to tie all of the PCs together, and extract information from the mainframe for analysis, your managers spent hours reading reports and entering the data into spreadsheets.

Meanwhile, some companies were discovering that their computer systems could provide a competative advantage.  If they always knew where that shipment was, always knew what a product was going to cost, always knew when they would need delivery of raw materials, they had an advantgage over competitors that didn't have that information.

In the 1990s,

Everyone had the computer systems. Having good systems was not a competitive advantage; it was a necessity for survival. If the person answering a customer's call could not access customer infomation, that customer was lost.

Companies began to have a presence on the web. These were usually set up as seperate entities. Even if a product could be ordered online, you could not return it to the store because that was a different division. Corporate web sites were disconnected from the corporate database.

Now,

You can order something from Costco online, and return it to any store.  Employees of many firms can visit their corporate web sites to change their mailing address, their health benefits, check their vacation balance, or even see their pay stub.

Customers are more likely to go to your web site than to call you if they have a problem.  They look at your site as another store or office location and expect to find all of the goods and services that you provide available there.

All of your systems should be talkling to each other.  Web and store sales should all be tied into your perpetual inventory.  Customer information from all sources should be integrated so that you can be offering them what they need.  And your systems should be able to tell you what is going on with your business right now.  End of the month reports are for tax filings, not for making business decisions.

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