Today, Information Technology has become a babble of different and competitive languages and technologies.  There are new languages, new versions of established languages and a jungle of acronyms – C, C++, then C#; HTML, XML, then XHTML; VBscript, JavaScript, then jscript; to mention only a very few of all that are available.  There are new software systems – CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), B2B, B2C. But if you buy a CRM package from one software house and a ERP package from a different house, will they be compatible? Will they work together?

    Within the unique field of Microsoft Office suite, Visual Basic may now be deployed in conjunction with Access and Excel, running on Windows/Intel platforms, in order to customise computer systems to an organisation’s exact requirements; the potential here is often neglected. These developments have enabled formidable advances to be made in developing computer-based administrative systems. While there will be gains from saving labour, increasing efficiency and enhancing control over the organisation, the true benefit is to be found in creating systems that meet an organisation’s or an individual’s precisely specified needs.

    To mention two examples:

  • Extremely accurate and detailed financial information may be obtained through the use of databases and spreadsheets in addition to accounts packages and drawing on varied sources of information. The gain may be fingertip analysis of data from all angles; e.g. financial data against projections and past results. Or precision of stock control as all changes in stock from supplier to sales are tracked with exactitude.
  • Control of administrative, management or technical data, in order to make it accessible and retrievable with speed and precision.  The limitations of keyword searches are familiar to all who use the Internet; databases offer a specialised language (SQL) to facilitate the analysis of data. Up-to-the-minute records and reports relating to all parts of the organisation may then be obtained, accessed at the touch of a keyboard.

    Fine tuning is the keynote. No application can be considered satisfactory until it has been dovetailed to the needs of your organisation. This is the critical gain. One is no longer restricted by the rigidities of specialised packages (e.g. for accounts) often developed in the Unix era and now struggling to bridge the gap. 

    Developing custom software in a Microsoft environment however is not a quick or simple task. It is true that hardware costs at today’s prices are low and that software costs often exceed the costs of hardware. But this is not the whole truth: the expertise required to customised software is considerable. Customisation involves detailed work with code that cannot be done in a short space of time. There is therefore a cost in personnel terms that is likely to exceed both hardware and software costs.  

    Notwithstanding these obstacles, the gains from pursuing a modern computerisation programme can be very substantial. There is a potential in this technology that will both fascinate and reward those who wish to explore it. Without doubt, the computer is bringing about a revolution in administrative practice and awareness of the issues underlying these organisational changes will greatly facilitate their implementation.



The foregoing comments may reflect my personal background in the social sciences and substantial experience in off-computer administration.

As a result, considerable attention is given to the user side of the procedures being established. In these circumstances, an approach on three fronts may be beneficial:

  • Develop the computer system on the basis of the distinctive functionality of the applications involved and the code's logic.
  • Ensure the individual user is given procedures that have been set out with the utmost clarity and can therefore be accommodated alongside all the other demands of his/her job description.
  • Consider the computer system and user in the context of an organisation with its own set of requirements and needs.






back to english start