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By Robert Moskowitz

There are many interesting ways to use your computer to do business more profitably and efficiently. But they all depend on starting with a clear picture of how your business actually operates.

Fortunately, computers can help you here, too. The basic process of computerizing your business involves taking the time to:

* identify the parts of your business you can most effectively computerize,
* improve and streamline those parts of your business for greater efficiency even before you start to computerize them,
* evaluate and select the most effective and appropriate computer system components, and manage the transition from the old system.

In the near future, we'll deal with all these steps. This time, let's focus on how to decide where and when to most effectively apply computers, copiers, faxes, and other office automation equipment. The easiest way is to develop a diagram that shows information and material flowing into, through, and out of each phase of the operation.

To begin, pretend you're an outsider. Walk through the premises. Go over the operations. Talk to employees about what works and what doesn't. In the process, you'll probably identify several--perhaps a great many--opportunities to cut out redundancy, shorten the decision-making loops, and streamline the essential operations. Such inefficiencies naturally spring up as you build and maintain a business, and once in place they tend to become solidified ("we've always done it that way") until you consciously root them out.

Make A Flow Chart Of Your Business

As you probably know, a flow chart is simply a diagram showing how information or material moves between the various operations or processes in your business.

To make the chart most useful, it should indicate as many of the places as possible where information or material first enters your company, and should follow the flow of that information or material all the way through to where it flows out again.


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Robert Moskowitz is a consultant.
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