Advantages & Disadvantages of Office Automation

Office automation today refers to much more than a typewriter and a copy machine. Electronic and digital information is the crux of modern office automation. It may consist of strictly internal computers or, more likely, includes a worldwide digital network through the Internet and off-site cloud storage. As you move through the 21st century, you will encounter both benefits and disadvantages inherent in office automation in all its permutations.

Businesswoman talking to colleague in office
A modern business office.
credit: Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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Save Time and Company Resources

Since the introduction of office automation, the equipment has allowed businesses to save time and money. Instead of waiting for a document to reach a client by mail, you could shoot it over in a few minutes by fax. Now, computer advancements and the Internet made communications instant. Whenever you save time, you save money. You are not constricted by geographical limitations, saving resources you spent on travel. Additionally, even though you still may make hard copies of many documents, digital storage allows you to save time and money on paper and storage space.

Rely on Automation for Accuracy

While it's true that a machine is only as effective as the humans who made it and information gleaned digitally is only as accurate as the person who submitted it, once the bugs are worked out of programs, they are infinitely more reliable than humans. Software exists to add up numbers in spreadsheets and budgets, for example, that always come up with the correct balance and don't rely on a bookkeeper's fingers on the adding machine. Templates can be created and used over and over to avoid errors in standard documentation.

When the Automation Goes Awry, You’re in Trouble

Companies that rely exclusively on automation to operate and run their information systems can get into a panic when those very systems fail. The costs to fix or replace broken systems can be exorbitant. You can't just pick up an eraser and make corrections. You need to either employ technicians to keep up with updates and software and hardware meltdowns, or have a reliable service to call on a moment's notice. Then you have the whole issue of confidentiality and security. You can keep trade secrets and tell only a few trusted individuals, but if data makes it out on the Web, there's no taking it back.

Users Aren’t Always Easy to Change

As office automation continues to evolve and you incorporate new technologies into your systems to remain competitive and profitable, the disadvantage is that you've got to retrain your entire cadre of users. Everyone from your secretary to the order clerk and from your customers to the salespeople who deliver your product or service must learn the new systems. Many people do not learn new systems easily and others are stubborn about doing things the way they always did. So while you have the expenses related to retraining, you also have the attitudes of your end users to combat.

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