Uses of Computers for the Small and Medium Scale Businesses

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By: Site Engineer, Staff

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Word Processing and Desktop Publishing

This is electronic typesetting and or manipulation of words using a specialized computer software package designed to retrieve, compose, edit, print, copy, delete and store electronic documents.

It is a specialized form of data processing in which the data are characters, words and other symbols.

Word processing involves typing memoranda, circulars, letters and any other kind of document. It offers facilities for affecting corrections and editing the document, merging two or more documents, and moving words, sentences, paragraphs, pages and sections from one part of a document to another. Parts of one document can also be moved to another document entirely.

It provides opportunities for choosing from among several typefaces or fonts, font sizes and other forms of enhancements such as bold text, italics, strikeout and underscore.

Finally, every copy produced by a word processor is an original copy. A document or file created using a word processor can be stored electronically in the computer or a diskette, flash drive for future use.

It permits the user to produce high quality, professional looking text and graphics using basic principles of typology, graphics and page layout. It is particularly useful for producing bulletins, newsletters, pamphlets, booklets, magazines, journals and reports.

The term desktop publishing is more appropriate than word processing when the material to be produced is the type (in terms of the volume and the number of copies) that would have been handled by publishers rather than typists in pre-microcomputer era.

A word processor has very many advantages over the manual typewriter, formatting the page layout is a lot easier. Return carriage at the end of each line is automatic. Editing and corrections are easier, faster and neater. It is easy to merge two or more files as it is to cut and paste parts of a document. Document can be produced in color. Pictures and other graphics can be added to a document easily. It has a lot of formatting enhancements. Neither erasers nor correction fluids are needed.

Word processed electronic documents can be stored. They can be copied into diskettes, flash drives or other computers. You can choose to print only a part of the document. The production quality of the printout is better.

Popular word processing applications packages (word processors) include Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, PageMaker and Microsoft Works.

Database Management

Imagine a big-time trader who obtains his supplies from one hundred odd wholesalers and companies. He or she desires to have reliable records of these business partners – their names, addresses, town, state, items supplied from time to time, terms of sale, etc.

In addition, the trader wants to be able to search the records for suppliers who satisfy specified conditions from time to time. For example, the list of suppliers who are located in the North-West, or those who stock or manufacture a certain items or whose annual sales exceed a certain value and so on.

Or rather consider a clinic that attends to thousands of patients each year. From time to time, it may want to reach those who have ever complained of a particular ailment, or those with debts of more than three months old, or those who have patronized it for upwards of three years.

What each of these businesses needs is a database application package.

  • A database is a collection of related files.
  • Each file in the database is a collection of records.
  • A record is a set of data pertaining to one element or case.
  • A case is one element of the population or sample of interest.

If we have a customer database, each customer is a case. All data pertaining to one case in a file is called a record.

An example of a database will be an employee database. One file in the data base may contain information about the sex, employee number, age, date of employment, qualifications, department, section, marital status, number of children, next-of-kin, local government area of origin, town of origin, home address and telephone number of each employee. The data will be arranged in a tabulated form in the database.

Note that each employee is a case or record, in the file. Another file in the employee database may contain the medical information about each employee while a third file may contain the productivity and performance evaluation records of the same employees.

You should have noticed by now that data or values for the employees all pertain to the same set of variables or attributes.

Another possible database would be a customer database in which there will be a file containing the personal or company data of each customer. Another file in the same database may contain information relating to each customer’s transactions with the company.

It is also possible to create another database for materials management which will contain records of stock items, quantity of the items in stock as at a particular date, quantity supplied, quantity ordered and quantity issued out.

A company can also maintain a price list in the database. Finally there can be a database for a company’s assets and liabilities.

A software application package for creating, updating and using a set of databases is called a Database Management System or a Database Application Package.

Examples of popular database application packages are:

  1. dBase; and
  2. Microsoft Access.

The benefits of having a computerized database management system are as follow:

  • With a computerized database, it is easy to update the records and to retrieve needed data;
  • It enables and encourages the company to keep accurate and up-to-date records;
  • The records kept in a database are stored and maintained in a standardized and consistent manner;
  • With a computerized database management system, it is possible and easy to reorganize the data in a file to reflect one’s needs. For example, certain columns can either be relocated or omitted. Similarly, data from different files in the database can be brought together, modified and printed as if they were originally stored in the same table or file.
  • It is easy to query a database, that is, to request the computer to select from the database data or records which meet certain criteria. For example, a customer database can be requested to provide data for all customers who are owing more than a given sum and/or whose indebtedness is of a given age. Similarly, an employee database can be required to list all employees who are less than, say, one year old with the company or who are due to retire in the next five years or who have ever received a loan from the company.

Spreadsheet

A spreadsheet is a big table made up of very many columns and rows which cross one another to form cells. For example, imagine an accountant who wants to make a table of projected monthly expenses for several items for, say three years.

The spreadsheet is designed for computations which involve figures in the cells. In our example, the totals for each month and for each item can be computed automatically. The spreadsheet can make these and other calculations involving items in the table automatically using a formula entered into the cell where the computed value is to be stored

Once the formula has been ensured and the required value has been computed, any alteration in a column or row concerned automatically causes the computed value to be recomputed and stored in the corresponding cell instantaneously. The programme is sensitive to cell references and can thus perform mathematical calculations using formulae and cell references.

The electronic spreadsheet has one time been described as the most brilliant computer software invention of the Microsoft era. It is quite valuable in the preparation of financial statement and other tables which involve calculations.

It is noteworthy that data displayed in a spreadsheet can easily be converted into graphs of various types simply at the click of the mouse.

Two popular spreadsheets application packages:

  1. Microsoft Excel; and
  2. Quarto Pro.

Statistical Analysis Software Packages

These are sophisticated application package dedicated to the statistical analysis of data.

These packages are quite versatile and so can conduct a variety of analyses including the Mean, Median, Mode, Mean Deviation, Standard Deviation, the Correlation Coefficient as well as other parametric and nonparametric statistics. They are also capable of computing inferential statistics such as those needed for conducting tests of difference between two means, F-ratio tests and Chi-square. They are also suited for even more sophisticated analysis such as cluster, factor and other analyses.

Furthermore, these packages can plot graphs and charts using the data submitted to them. Such graphics are useful for making presentations at meetings, conferences, seminars and training programmes. Such graphs and charts may also prove useful in writing management reports.

These packages are designed mainly for, and are quite useful to university lecturers, professional researchers, and students undertaking research. They also aid marketing researchers in established organizations who conduct market surveys from time to time.

Other Specialized Packages

A number of other specialized computer packages are available for use in various businesses and in various functional areas. For example, there a presentation software designed specifically for making formal presentation of reports and for use in training sessions. They have multimedia facilities, making it possible to combine audio, text and graphics along with other special effects which determine how the materials are introduced and featured in the presentation.

Similarly, software are available for specialized tasks such as those for engineering designs, medical services, personal income management, asset management, project management and on-line banking.

 

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