Office automation can be explained as the use of computer systems used to performed a variety of office operations, such as word processing, excel, and e-mail. Office automation almost always entails a network of computers with a variety of available programs (Webopedia Online Encyclopedia). Group collaboration software also known as groupware is described by the Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia as application software, which integrates work on a single project by several concurrent users, at separated workstations. Office automation has become a critical part of the organization where I am employed.

Some office automation software includes word processor, spreadsheet, database, desktop publisher, presentation, e-mail, personnel system, and financial systems. Today, word processing is now done by using simple computer software such as Microsoft word, as oppose to the manual typewriter. The advantage of using such a tool enables users to make changes without retyping the entire document. Ledger books, a manual memory of the past, have been replaced by Spreadsheet programs, and database programs, have replaced paper-based inventories and staff lists.

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The output efficiency has been realized due to the progress in management software of office automation equipment. The many different types of office automation have certainly enhanced the productivity of my company to date. The advantages of office automation are that it makes one's workload a whole less monotonous, lessen some of the workload, and makes the job less manual. The disadvantage of office automation is that it may be limited by the level of programs available to the user. Lotus notes, a group collaboration software has been used within my company for several years.

Groupware is divided into three classes; electronic communication tools, electronic conferencing tools, and collaborative management tools. Electronic communication tools accommodate the sharing of information; these tools send messages, file or documents between people. Within my organization examples of such tools include faxing, e-mail, voice mail, and web publishing. The advantages of using such tools are that they give the user a means to share and receive information with the utmost efficiency. Information sharing by interactive means is also provided by electronic conferencing tools.

Some of the tools used include video conferencing, voice conferencing, internet forums, data conferencing, electronic meeting systems, and chat rooms. Video conferencing provides "face to face" communication with another employee or business partner in another country and or branch alleviating the hassle of traveling and leaving the comfort of one's own country. Another advantage of video conferencing includes the convenience of allowing meetings to be scheduled on short notice or at any given time. Most importantly this tool has saved businesses a lot of time and money in travel expenses.

Internet connection greatly influences the communication of desktop videoconferencing; thus checking that the service is offer by the internet provider and the internet speed is important. Once all the necessary elements are installed, participants can then exchange and share vital information. The initial implementation cost may pose as an inconvenience but the many advantages of video conferencing may by far overshadow this. Another disadvantage of videoconferencing is that the personal touch may not be felt as 'in the flesh' meeting.

As mentioned by Flexibility LTD, "Others insist on the value of personal meetings in the flesh, and don't believe the improved technologies can substitute for this. " Telephone meetings between participants in two or more locations is known as voice conferencing or teleconferencing. Through teleconferencing, the planning process can be made simple, where discussions can be expanded, to all persons involved in the process. One advantage of teleconferencing is that it reaches large areas offering the opportunity for people in other parts of the regions to participate in telemeetings.

This is utilized ever so often between our head office in Trinidad and the office here in the Bahamas. Another advantage provides the opportunity for persons in different locations to receive information directly and all at the same time. Teleconferencing also saves on businesses time and cost by reducing the time lost from to travel to another location and saving on the cost of travel expenses. Teleconferencing also saves time in that it reaches more people in one conference compared to several meetings held in one field over numerous weeks.

Scheduling such meetings may be difficult, due to staff obligations and other concerns; however teleconference links to several regional offices save weeks worth of business time and accommodates a fast-track schedule. The high cost associated with purchasing equipment and training may be a deterrent in implementing teleconferencing. Another disadvantage of teleconferencing is the lack of face-to-face contact between participants of projects, which often fosters good working relationship between stakeholders and staff in local sites.

To avoid the feeling of wasted time the goal of teleconferencing must be clear and convenient. In the 1980s, office automation began a new development - several abilities all rolled into one single workstation. Computers are now able to store more information and this information is process with great speed and efficiency. Computer knowledge in the workplace is now an expected standard as the cost of technology continues to be reduced; office automation is now an essential component of business operations.