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Satisfying members' appetites for information.

Computers may be more prevalent than ever, but the world isn't populated with computer operators. Therefore, although computer users need more sophisticated functions, they don't need more-complicated-to-use systems.

Perhaps no one can attest to that fact better than the Alexandria, Virginia-based American School Food Service Association, a national leader in promoting child nutrition programs. ASFSA's 67,000 members are involved in all aspects of school food services, and are hungry for the latest information or trends in child nutrition, health, and education.

Among ASFSA's services are its monthly magazine, School Food Service Journal, as well as meetings, conferences, and other educational products. Getting this information into the hands of the right people means handling a full menu of information that's readily available.

To keep their information fresh, ASFSA used an IBM computer with Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) architecture. More than two dozen personal computers and terminals are tied into it, so people handling memberships, accounts receivable, subscriptions, and other aspects of ASFSA's work may easily gain access to the system. The system is also integrated with an Apple Macintosh system that does desktop publishing. The RISC system's open architecture makes it easy to add additional functions to ASFSA's computing capability.

According to O. J. Byrnside, Jr., director of finance at ASFSA, one of the best items on ASFSA's smorgasbord of computing capabilities is the fact that it uses a retrieval system based on the English language. Operators may simply type their requests for information into the system without having to know specific computer terms.

"Say you want to know what you paid a particular speaker who talked at session number two at each of your last three or four conferences," Byrnside says. "All you need to do is basically write out a request for information just as I said it. We can also provide each board member with detailed reports on his or her particular expenses. It's a very sophisticated system, yet it's very user friendly," Byrnside adds.

ASFSA selected the system with the help of Data Management Group (DMG), a Chicago-based IBM Industry Remarkerter Business Partner. "DMG's specific modules were customized to meet our needs, and each module was integrated into our total system," Byrnside explains.

Some of the modules include membership processing, meeting registration, certification, magazine circulation audits, balloting, order entry, inventory control, accounts receivable and payable, and general ledger.

"DMG worked very closely with our staff in developing exactly the type of system we needed," Byrnside says.

The integration of ASFSA's system allows the information entered into one module to be accurately reflected in another. For instance when members pay their dues, that information is entered into the membership module and automatically reflected in the accounts receivable and general ledger modules. "One step does all the work," Byrnside says.

Jim Friedman, president of Data Management Group, says ASFSA can also do sophisticated direct marketing with the system. The association can track member activities by asking the system to print out reports of who ordered specific books or other periodicals. Friedman also says the IBM RISC-based system is ideal for business applications because it is an open system and very user friendly.

"It would be impossible to provide the high level of service to our members if we were not able to continually track all of them through the membership module on our computer," Byrnside emphasizes. Fortunately, with the help of IBM and Data Management Group, ASFSA's hunger for information has been satisfied.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:IBM And Its Business Partners/ Associating for Success; American School Food Service Association
Publication:Association Management
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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