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Electronic Mail Called the Facilitator for Easy, Instant Access to Information.

Success in any business or profession depends on immediate access to timely information. Today's technology provides that access, but before the information can be utilized to its fullest potential, American businesses must accept technology as a tool that will help to keep them competitive in an increasingly complex global economy.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, the United States has undergone a shift to so-called service businesses: Witness the growth in the field of law, accounting, real estate, finance and communications (publishing, advertising and public relations). Because of this, a growing percentage of American works have moved into the white-collar work force.

To date, however, this sector of American business has had the lowest productivity levels. One reason is that service businesses have been the slowest to accept technology--in an age when computers and computer-controlled machinery are common in many factories. Despite the ready availability of word processors, personal computers and electronic communications, an amazingly high percentage of service businesses continue to rely on typewriters and telephones.

As computers become firmly entrenched in foreign businesses, and as business in general becomes more internationally oriented, American business must become more productive to remain competitive. This can be achieved through a wider acceptance of technology throughout the US economy.

PAralleling these business trends have been several technological developments that can help to solve the challenges facing American businesses.

Over the past 10 years, for instance, there's been a growing emphasis on information-processing technology. More recently, personal computers have become common in American businesses. Both began at the local level; that is, large information-processing computers and small personal computers were first used at single locations for specific purposes--word processing or spreadsheet (accounting) analysis, for example.

Most recently, communication networks have been developed so that the information gathered, processed and analyzed by computers can be shared to provide more-effective utilization of that information.

There are now more than 2,000 central computer services that provide a wide variety of information, stored in massive data bases, to anyone who subscribes to the services. Users of personal computers with communication capabilities can access and retrieve that information, and then reprocess and analyze it on their own computers.

Further, the advent of integrated software gives personal-computer users still more capabilities to quickly and efficiently analyze information. Integrated software combines multiple functions, such as word processing, spreadsheet analysis and communications. With that functionality, a user can collect data, analyze it, develop reports incorporating it, and then send the data or reports to wherever else they need to be used.

After years of isolated development, telecommunications now makes vast amounts of information stored in computers accessible. And a relatively new form of communication--electronic mail--is the facilitator.

Electronic mail is the means by which computers of all types and sizes send and receive messages, and it enables a wide range of information to be transmitted instantaneously.

Industry analysts agree that the greatest potential application of electronic mail will be for intercompany communications. This will facilitate the transmission of sales orders, inventory listings, bookings and reservations, and personnel and accounting data between a company and its branches, or even its suppliers and customers.

One area where electronic mail already has been put to productive use is in the transportation industry. A major trucking and railroad firm headquartered in the Midwest, for example, uses electronic mail more than 200 times a day to correspond with terminals and customers all across the country. With electronic mail, the company has found that it has gained central control over its trucks' locations, schedules, in-route progress, delivery rouites and driver assignments.

These used to be time-consuming tasks, requiring several employees to work full time on the telephone to gather the needed information. Several more hours of work were then required to develop reports. Often, however, these reports could not be completed in time for the company to take advantage of less-expensive truck rental rates or more-efficient routes.

Not only has the use of electronic mail made this information readily available, it has also eliminated the need for additional employees to work inefficiently on the telephone and to manually develop printed reports. In fact, the company reports that electronic mail is largely responsible for saving it more than $100,000 a year in telephone and personnel costs.

Many Electronic-Mail Services Are Available

A variety of electronic-mail services are available. With computer-to-computer services, a user types a message into the computer, enters the codes for whomever on the "mailing list" is to receive the message, links the computer to a telephone line, and sends the message.

Another feature of computer-to-computer electronic mail gives users access to a variety of "bulletin board" services. These data bases of information range from up-to-the-minute news and stock-market reports to airline schedules. One drawback to this type of service, however, is that computers can communicate only with other computers whose users have subscribed to the same service.

For that reason, the newest service--and the one that's receiving rapid acceptance--is computer-to-noncomputer communication.

There are millions of people and companies who don't have computers, or who have computers that are not equipped with either the hardware or software needed for communications. A truly comprehensive electronic-mail system, therefore, is one that provides a way to communicate with these people.

This type of communication is accomplished in a number of ways. With a comprehensive service, a subscriber can send messages to virtually anyone in the world via telex, telegram, mailgram, cablegram or computer letter. The subscriber simply sends the message to the central service, which in turn transmits the message to the center nearest the recipient. From there, the message is printed and delivered by traditional means.

As with the Midwest trucking company, electronic mail not only provides efficiency, it also makes information operations cost-effective. The information is available. But for that information to be useful, businesses need it now.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Naughton, J.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jun 1, 1985
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