The following report will look at three main areas, the first area will demonstrate understanding regarding the advantages and disadvantages of Transaction Processing. The second section will look at the advantages and disadvantages of the business context discussing where applications such as Spreadsheets, Database, Word processing and E-mail would be best used and expand on the strengths and weaknesses of these areas.
The finally part (three) will research and provide evidence regarding if the society we live in today has achieved a ‘Paperless Society’.
It will discuss and look toward providing evidence to backup or discredit this hypothesis through methods of using different forms of research.
What is transaction processing?
“Transaction processing involves the round trip transfer of financial transaction data (for example, consumer credit card information), from a merchant’s web site to a processing network (such as VeriSign), and thereafter completes the transfer of funds to the merchant.”
From the above quotation it can be established that ‘Transaction processing’ is an electronic form of processing data. This can be in the format of financial transactions to the simply processing orders via an electronic format such as purchases via the Web.
The advantages of this system are the ease and quickness it can be used. For example the automated transaction process of the ATM machines (whole in the wall, banking). Through this service a customer is able to withdraw or deposit money, check account details, order stationary (such as cheque books and statements) etc. This is all available at a time that is convenient to the customer as it should be accessible 24 hours a day meaning that customers can conduct business and banking transactions at a time which is convenient to themselves apposed to the traditional method of using a bank during banking hours, when most are at work, thus finding it difficult to sometime utilise the facilities available.
To take convenience further banks have also introduce internet banking making it more convenient to transfer money, check banking details order stationery etc all from the comfort of your own home or work place. This is the forward progression of technology.
Transactional processing also involved the use of the internet to order and purchase good again at a time convenient to the customer making it easier for them to shop. The advantages are that purchases can be made without leaving your home or workplace. No more having to queue, goods can be purchased over the net and delivered directly to your door saving you time in having to go to the shop and enabling you to do this all when it suits you best.
As technology has progressed so have the different types of crime. There is an increase of internet fraud and malicious hacking taking place within the world today and these could all have a diverse effect on transactional processing.
Different methods have been developed in regards to accessing personal information in regards to the use of ATM machines and internet transactions. In some cases fraud was committed regarding the rigging ATM machines so that a customer had to type in their password a number of times, during this process someone would be behind taking note of the number and then place a blank bank card and type in the accessed number enabling access to an individuals account.
Via the use of the internet hacking a targets PC via the use of a trogon or sub seven program could enable the hacker to access personal details such as credit card numbers, personal reference numbers etc in order to gain money, details or personal information etc.
Another disadvantage is that we as a society have become more reliant of this form of transaction and if problems arise, such as mechanical failure we could be find ourselves unable to carry out transaction in a specified time making us late for payment or even in some cases without money.
Therefore these is a lot to weigh up in regards to the advantages and disadvantages of our lives moving more to automated transactional processes, the main disadvantage being security and the major advantage is convenience.
Analysis of Applications
Within this section the writer will analyse and discuss, within a business context the individual strengths and weaknesses of the following applications.
The main features of spreadsheets are:
* Changes are easily made to existing spreadsheets
* New data can be put in a spreadsheet, so calculations can be repeated
* Charts can quickly be created from spreadsheet data
* Mistakes in calculations are generally eliminated
A spreadsheet is like a calculator, an electronic representation of a piece of paper, containing columns and rows, the intersection of which forms a cell or box.
Numbers, text and formulas maybe entered into these cells. So the spreadsheet enables you do calculations by using cell addresses. If information is changed within the cell it will trigger a revised calculation in another cell that you have placed your calculation.
A spreadsheet is often used for budgeting, financial planning, expenses, sales forecasting, predictions and charts. In some cases in Industry when a large number of worksheets are involved in producing re-calculations, the program is enabled to manually calculate at given period in time. All these things are advantages within the working community.
Therefore the strengths of a spreadsheet are that it can easily produce calculation and these can be replicated quickly via the use of relative and absolute cell references. Thus saving the user time in calculating information on an individual basis and eliminate most of the calculation errors. It is also easy to produce business forecasting, breakeven point and profit and loss details.
Data within a spreadsheet can be linked via formulae and functions to other workbooks or even other sheets within the original workbook. Links into other programs can also be incorporated, which will enable the document to be updated automatically as the original source is amended.
Through the use of graphs and charts data can be display in many different forms making it easier to understand. Through the use of facilities within the program again forecasting can be easily produce and expected linear trends displayed.
From these details it can be established that a spreadsheet is mostly used for a collection of data that required calculations to be stored and produced. This package would not be suitable for the use of producing letters etc. It could be used for the collection of related data as queries and reports can be produced, but this method is complicated and time consuming and other programs are much more suitable.
A Database File is a collection of related records. For example, an address book of clients is a collection of details such as names, DOB’s, telephone numbers or addresses stored electronically as opposed to manually. A database contains my object within it in order to store and manipulate data these are as follows: –
A table could be a complete database. However you can store numerous tables in a database file, with each table having a complete set of data and named individually. Tables are the most important object in a database file. They are the things that actually hold the data. A database cannot exist without there being a table as a database is meaningless without data.
A record is a complete set of data about one item in the table, for example in a table containing names and addresses a record would be all the information relating to one person.
A field is an individual heading, which contains one piece of data for example in names and addresses a field heading would be FIRST NAME.
In order to manipulate, process and present data, a set of tools will need to be used, such as:-
Forms, which are use to input, edit or view information within the database, usually record by record. Forms often resemble paper-based documents.
Queries are a way of asking questions about the data in a tables, for example a query would find all the occurrences from an address book table of the people who lived in London. The information resulting from a query can be sorted into ascending or descending order on a particular field.
Reports can be used to organise and present information from the database table(s). This data can be designed to group information in specific categories, produce summaries and calculation etc.
Other functions are available within a database program such as a graphic user interface. This makes it easier to use and look more attractive. Command buttons can be added to the user interface via the use of VBA or Macros (which is a form of application produce visual basic programming as well as the incorporation of graphics.
Therefore the advantages of a database is that information can be stored easily and quickly, data can be edited and manipulated to produce required outcome such as data analysis and reports, multiply tables can be produce and linked in order to save a company time in reproduce data and data can be found quickly. Information stored in a database can be extracted into other application for example word when creating mailing letter, labels etc, saving a company time have to reproduce documents over and over again. A database can be use for many purposes such as stock control, search for information, customer and personal details etc.
The disadvantages of a database are that staff may need training in order to work the program and produce the data required, If the computer is damaged in the form of a virus etc that all the data can be lost unless a full back up has been produced. If any data within the database has been entered incorrectly then details may not be located when a query is performed. The use of calculation is not normally stored within the database due to the fact that if data is amended then the calculation will not automatically up date.
You would not use a database then to produce information that relies on automatic update of calculation, or word processed documents such as letters of in-depth reports.
The use of word processing in the business community has vastly increased over the past few years with computer becoming less expensive and more stable. In the latter days documents had to be produced normally by a typewriter. If mistakes were made within a document then the typist had to use correction fluid or completely re type the document. The use of correction fluid was messy and it was able to tell that mistakes had been made.
To a company this could become costly and time consuming as it would take longer for a letter or document to be produced than today’s method of using a word processing package. This is one advantage of the word processor program as if a mistake is make within a document then it can be edited and changed within a few seconds and the mistake would never be seen.
There are many other advantaged of using a Word Processing package such as the ability to integrate other data from different packages such as graphs, spreadsheet, data tables, queries etc. Other facilities are also available within the package such as mail merge. This again is a benefit to a company as data can be merged from other programs in order to produce things such as mailing labels, envelopes, standard form letters etc. The advantage of this is that again time is saved by not having to do repetitive jobs over again and it is quick easy and relatively error free. Large volumes of letters etc can be produced in a very short time.
Through the inclusion of a spelling and grammar check facility documents can be checked for errors quickly make work that is dispatched by the company become more professional. The find and replace function is able to locate a specified would within a document and replace is with another that is required. This again saves time in having to go through a multi paged document reading word for word in order to find the errors and change them. The program will automatically do this and change the word is seconds or will check with the user that the word it has located does in fact want changing.
There are many other features within the program which make it more viable for a business than the older form of typing, such as the ability to change font style and size, address appearance and in the new versions of Microsoft Word can be used as an effective desk top publishing package.
The main disadvantage is that if a computer shuts down or a program performs an illegal operation and the work has not been saved then the document could be lost. Another disadvantage is that not all word processing programs are compatible which would mean that any work produced on specific software would have to be edited in one that was the same or a compatible version. Training cost could also become expensive in order that staff is able to operate the specific processing package and the retraining as new versions of the word processing software are placed on the market, as well as the overall cost of the software and possibility of upgrading the PC.
Overall on this application the advantages over weigh the disadvantages and it is felt that this program is an essential item of the business community.
The expansion of the World Wide Web and it popularity has become an essential part of the business community today. Within this area the development of electronic communication has become one of the most essential forms of sending information between staff and companies.
The advantages of Email are that information is sent and received a lot quicker than the traditional method of British Post. It can literally take minutes to receive correspondence from the other side of the world, thus urgent letter, document etc can be sent to multiply addresses by the click of a button. This method of communication would therefore save company money in postage and time in producing multiply documents, overheads of consumable such as paper would be reduced, as well as the dispatch and delivery time.
Within the Email program there are facilities to add attachment; this could be anything from programs, images and photographs to just simple documents. A receipt can also be generated to inform the sender that their Email has been delivered and opened; this function benefits the company as a record of receipt can be logged.
If an Email address can not be found then an automated report is sent back to the dispatching address informing them of this problem. On receipt of this report the company will be able to check that the address was typed in correctly or if the address is no longer recognised.
Although there are a lot of benefits and advantages of using Email but with this come the downfalls and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages of Email is if the recipients address has been incorrectly typed but is a recognised Email address, then the required information which could have been urgent will not get to the correct person. This could also lead to the problem of security of company or personal data.
Viruses are sometime sent to companies via an Email in the form of an attachment and when opened could cause havoc for the company and a possible threat of security breaches.
Due to electronic mail becoming more popular, more and more companies are using this form of communication in regards to sending out promotional propaganda. This can become time consuming and a tedious job to repeatedly keep deleting what would have been know as ‘Junk Mail’.
Although there are still some safety issues in regards to the use of Emails it is still becoming one of the most popular ways of communication from companies. Through the development of virus protection software that can automatically scan incoming and outgoing mail for suspicious contents the risks of infection are minimal, on the condition that the software is constantly updated. Still a minimum risk applies as thousands of new viruses and Emailing worms appear and time to produce protection patches can only be produced when a number of computer have been infected.
The use of Email is a move to the future and will continue to be an overall advantage to a company and will expand further in the coming year.
As the world is moving more towards the advancement of technology so is the business community taking into account different ways of conduction business.
Through the advancement of automated processing and more stable and computable software, companies find themselves more and more in need of the computer era. The fastness and more efficient format of producing work such as letters, invoices, data storage and the ability to ensure few mistakes are made has ensured this development within companies. What we need to look at is the reliability of these systems and how effective software is in meeting the growing demands of the business community.
Also care needs to be taken in regards to the constant development of new software and is it always necessary to move and upgrade a business to the latest technology all of this could become a costly adventure and may not always be needed in order to develop a thriving business.
The Paperless society is ‘here and now’ or is it?
This section of the report will look at the advancement of technology within the business community and try to evaluate if companies have achieved a paperless society, through the development of technology.
The section will try to produce evidence to either support or disprove the hypothesis that we are in the era of the ‘paperless society’ through the use of research via magazines, newspapers, books and the World Wide Web and will conclude it findings as to whether the paperless society is ‘here and now’.
Many experts have regularly predicted over the past thirty or so years the arrival of the ‘paperless office’, in which documents such as letters, memos will exist only as flickering dots on a computer screen.
Government have brought in many strategies in order to advance the ‘paperless society’ such as the ‘Paperless Practice’ proposal where all doctors’ surgeries will follow a computerised code of practice in order to store data regarding patients. The ‘CFSP’ procedure, which involves the full computerised system of data for HM Customs and Excise division and many more new initiatives are taking place within the government to help produce the way to a paperless society.
In order to obtain documented evidence regarding whether businesses were achieving a ‘paperless society’ searches were performed on the internet. Whilst searching the government web page an article was found titled ‘paperless office goes up in flames’. Information contained within the document provided supporting evidence to disprove the hypothesis of living in a ‘paperless society’ in which it quotes; –
“far from disappearing, the use of paper may actually be increasing, with the rise a direct result of the technology that is supposed to make it obsolete”
This statement was concluded within the paper from research conducted by Richard Harper, of Surrey University and Abigail Sellen of Hewlett-Packard that was contained within their book ‘The Myth of the Paperless Office’. The book was based upon researched workplace behaviour including the use of emails. Their case studies showed an increase in paper consumption of up to 40 per cent after the introduction of email, this was without including the amount of paper used to print information from the internet. The document quotes from the book In the book Richard Harper states: –
“Putting new technologies in place doesn’t necessarily reduce the amount of paper used; rather, it may simply shift the point at which documents are printed out. Organisations may pursue ‘paperlessness’ for the wrong reasons. They may want to get rid of paper simply because it is a symbol of the old-fashioned past, rather than an ineffective technology.”
The increase of consumption of paper was also backed up by a 1998 study which showed this correlation: –
“In addition, far from ushering in a paperless office, the advent of computers, and other electronic equipment, has fuelled paper demand. By one estimate, personal computers alone account for 115 billion sheets of paper per year worldwide”
In the late 1970’s and early 80’s ‘paperless office’ and ‘office automation’ were major buzzwords. Newspapers, magazines and trade journals used up forests writing about how computers would make the printed word obsolete. Some even predicted that secretaries and clerks would become obsolete and filing cabinets and in-boxes museum curiosities. In a 1979 forecast, US News & World Report stated “1980’s will be a decade of unrest in the American workplace” and predicted “technology will play its part by upsetting the present occupational mix. Many factory jobs will be lost to automation and employment will grow in white-collar fields. Computers will create a ‘paperless office’, and some workers may lose their jobs to robots.”
In 1982, an article in the Economist began: “The vision of the ‘paperless office’ is future-gazing nonsense. Even computer giants, IBM believes paper will be found amidst the micro-electronic wonders in the office of the future. The Xerox Corp. goes further: It contends that many offices will have more paper in them, not less – together with more automation, of course” This last section seams to have turned out right. Christa Carone, a Xerox Corp. spokeswoman, calls the paperless office a myth and offered the following data from current Xerox studies as evidence to back this statement up; –
“Over the next five years, the number of documents generated both electronically and on paper will soar to 20 trillion each year. Ninety percent of all documents, no matter how they’re created, today are eventually printed out, a number expected to decline to about 40 percent in 2005.”
As copier replaced carbon paper, making it easier to generate multiple copies of documents, E-mail has increase the amount of time saved by not having to print and send documents to multiply users, thus saving time, but research in the document ‘The Myth of the Paperless Office’ has shown that people tend to print their E-mails rather than just reading them and deleting them. A fact of human society is that technology will not replace things but layer on top of them.
Barry Polsky of the American Forest and Paper Association, says that its members shipped 4.8 million tons of office paper in 1998 apposed to 3 million tons in 1990 and 2.5 million tons in 1986. Paper consumption is on the increase around the world, especially in developing Asian countries. World consumption in 2000 was 323 957 675 metric tons according to FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations).
The second annual National Filing Survey found that 75 per cent of respondents believe that the paperless office is unachievable and even those working towards it do not believe it either.
Although some facts lead us to believe that we are reaching the goals of a ‘paperless society’ there is no documented evidence that this is the case, been found. On research that has been carried out it seams to disprove the hypothesis ‘The Paperless society is ‘here and now’.
From the findings it can be seen that evidence shows that more paper is being used today than previously, but possible in different formats. E-mailing has reduced the preparation time and cost of sending out correspondence, but evidence shows that the recipient still prints out a lot of the information. This could be down to not fully trusting technology yet or even finding it easier to read in hard copy format, no one fully knows this for sure but research has concluded it is done through the studies Richard Harper and Abigail Sellen.
Therefore from the research it has been concluded that we are still a long way from a ‘paperless society’ and possible there will never be one.
“When I hear the term “paperless office” I have to control my laughter. Why? Because there is no such thing as a paperless office. And, unfortunately, it’s not likely to become a reality anytime soon.”
(Scott Nesbitt, 1997)
“…why, when we have all the latest technology to allow us to work in the digital world, do we depend on paper so heavily? Indeed, why are most workplaces so dependent on paper? It seems that the promised “paperless office” is as much a mythical ideal today as it was thirty years ago.”
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