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Computerizing Lankan small-scale businesses Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama, Australia Feb 22, 2004
Technology   Opinions
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Large organizations in Sri Lanka have started to computerize their production and management functions, but still lag well behind their counterparts in developed countries. Information Technology (IT) is not a tool only for giant corporations but a helpful hand for small-scale businesses as well. This article will discuss simple procedures for computerizing a small-scale business.

First thing that needs to be done is identify the average workflow. Areas such as marketing, sales, order taking, product delivery, customer communication, accounting and any issues unique to your business should be taken in to consideration. This workflow would give you an idea about the functions that your system should be able to perform and determine which manual systems should be computerized. Services from a consultant will be very helpful at this stage. Internet can be used as a good consulting resource as well, given that entrepreneurs should have a basic idea of IT usage.

Next step is to choose software. For small-scale businesses, developing their own system is not affordable and thus might not be profitable. Therefore, according to the identified requirements, packages can be selected. A common operating system (OS) that supports most packages should be selected. Microsoft Windows is an obvious candidate for this. Packages such as following should be installed.

• An Accounting package
• E-Mail software
• Word processing software, such as Microsoft Word. It is a requirement for any office in order for them to write letters and other documents
• Database software, such as Access or FoxPro. It can be used to keep inventory
• Spreadsheet software such as Excel or Lotus allows you to create budgets, projections and forecasts.

It is important for the businesses select packages that suit their functions. If a proper package is not chosen, it will be like putting the cart before the horse! Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003 is a software package with packages specifically meant for small-scale businesses. Small businesses can manage customers and sales opportunities, create impressive marketing materials, and share information efficiently and securely with this software.

Next step is to decide on hardware. This selection should be done after choosing software, because depending on the software you use, the hardware differs. The number of computers required for your business depends on the number of user-employees and number of locations you have. Deciding on a reliable hardware vendor with good services including superb after sale service is also an important aspect to be considered. Matching the software and hardware requirements would need advices of an expert.

Next comes the most important part of the process, the training. No point in installing computer systems but having a set of employees who don’t know to use them! This might cost a lot of money and time depending on the previous knowledge of the employees and complexity of your systems, but it is worth it because without proper training, the advantage of having computer systems cannot be achieved. To learn new systems, it is often helpful to have one person dedicated to helping the others, either in-house or out of house. You have options of on-line help, tutorials, manuals, books, videos, classes and one-on-one training. Involving the employees in the company computerizing effort is an important factor in making it successful.

Why should Sri Lankan small-scale businesses be computerized? Basically, it will create many advantages that were not available before! Cost savings due to number of errors being minimized, secure data for future use, productivity improvement, quality improvement, better organizational management, better resource planning (labor, materials, etc.), better future planning with superior forecasting facilities, risk management, reduce paperwork by which you have the chance of concentrating more on the core business. It will also increase customer satisfaction due to higher speed and quality which would help to expand your business and attract foreign customers etc.

When the world business situation is analyzed, it is obvious that the use of newer technological facilities has expanded. That can well be the secret behind any company’s success. One major reason for businessmen to be reluctant to go for computerization is the lack of knowledge in the subject. It is not to say that each and everyone no the society should have a sound knowledge on IT, but everyone should have a basic knowledge of it and at least be aware of the miracles it could do. This falls as a responsibility on country’s education sector front liners. They should take measures to give a basic IT background to students at the school level rather than waiting to select a very few at the end and teach them at the university level.

All of the above would set-up any small company to expand its business and step up to be a large-scale successful organization. Resistance to change and believing that the costs on computerization would not pay-off are the main reasons for Lankan businessmen to be reluctant to use computer systems in their organizations, but this not the reality when considering the real world examples where so many small scale businesses have achieved great success with computerization.

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