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By Robert Moskowitz

The paperless office is as unrealistic today as it was when computer "experts" first began promising it to a gullible audience more than a decade ago. Over the years, we've become much more sophisticated about this, and most of us have learned the bitter truth of that popular aphorism: "To err is human, but to really mess up requires a computer!"

Despite our frequent complaints, however, virtually all of us receive significant benefits from today's computer technology. In fact, most of us probably couldn't do our jobs or run our businesses as well as we do without help from some form of automation--usually PCs.

But though we can't fully automate every business operation, there's plenty of room for more automation in most business operations. One area that's not only very easy to automate, but extremely cost-effective and profit-enhancing, is our work with "forms."

Three Levels Of "Forms" Work

Actually, "forms" constitute a very broad category. At the lowest level, we have the process of designing, printing, storing, and distributing blank forms for use in doing business. You can, of course, write a purchase order or a production contract on the back of an envelope or restaurant napkin. But most of us prefer special forms that help us do thousands of paperwork tasks better, faster, and more accurately.

A more difficult area of working with "forms" is the process of filling them in. Although it's well-accepted to hate forms and forms pushers, a form is often valuable because it forces the collection of a standard set of facts--like a name and a shipping address as part of every sales order, or an estimate of the costs for every change to an approved work plan.

But the most important part of working with "forms" is the actual processing--when people read, analyze, or act upon the information the forms contain.

In all these areas, inexpensive software lets your present PC provide a lot of extra help.


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Robert Moskowitz is a consultant.
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