- Computer-speak is the Language of Business
- First Published in The Herald September 1997
The ways in which businesses communicate have changed significantly
in the last twenty years and the Internet has accelerated the
pace of change. A recent survey of over 200 by Reed Employment
Services found that a typical senior secretary had an in-depth
knowledge of various technical skills: 79% were expert users
of spreadsheet packages; 71% were skilled users of databases
and 31% were already users of the Internet. For teachers of Business
Studies the Internet has an immediate relevance, obviously in
office, secretarial and management courses but also in Accounting
and in Economics.
BizEd is one of the most
accessible Web sites for those new to the Internet. In the "Schools
and Colleges" area there's a list of high profile companies
such as The Body Shop and Marks and Spencers. The site provides
answers to frequently asked questions about the companies and
details about production, operations, marketing and human resources.
On the financial side company reports and even customised company
profiles are also available. It1s the type of site that students
could use on their own and it1d be particularly useful when investigating
organisational structures as students must do in Standard Grade
Office and Information Systems.
O.I.S. and Higher Grade Secretarial Studies also require students
to access appropriate sources of information. Teaching them to
do this by using the Web will mirror the changes already taking
place in companies, large and small. In many organisations even
an activity such as organising business travel is now routinely
undertaken by accessing information on the Web and booking by
e-mail. Business Studies students can simulate this by searching
for suitable accommodation at destination
Scotland where a database asks users to select the region,
the type of accommodation and any specific facilities required.
It returns a list of suitable possibilities. Even better resources
are the R.A.C.
and the A.A.
Web sites which have a wider range of accommodation and include
prices. Most accommodation databases will actually allow you
to book online by contacting the site or by e-mailing a hotel
directly. The A.A. and R.A.C. sites cover the whole of the UK
and the R.A.C. also has an area for checking the traffic conditions.
Travel by train can be organised at Scotrail's
site where students can submit the place of departure and
the required time of arrival at the destination. An itinerary
is immediately supplied (including any changes of train which
are necessary). A weakness in the Scotrail site is that it doesn1t
seem to be possible to get a list of ticket prices or to book
online but that may come in the future. There is still a justified
degree of caution about giving credit cards details across the
Internet. Personal details should never be transmitted on an
insecure line but increasingly mechanisms are being put in place
to protect the consumer. (In Netscape secure lines are indicated
by a solid key at the bottom of the screen. Insecure lines are
shown by a broken key.)
It will soon be essential for most companies to understand how
to use the Net in their financial dealings and major banks such
as the Bank
of Scotland and the
Abbey National already have extensive Web sites where Internet
banking can be investigated. A good way of finding the Web addresses
for other banks and financial organisations is to go through
Office of Information which provides links to leading organisations.
The details are in the Finance section. An essential site for
financial links is to be found at Find!.
It has a fantastic amount of information and a hugh number of
Admin. assistants will also have to become familiar with Search
Engines, the index facilities on the Web. Typing in a wide topic
category - as anyone who has tried it knows - yields far too
many sites to handle, often as many as 500, 000. Searches should
be as specific as possible. Each of the search engines has its
own conventions and strengths. Altavista
is usually a good starting point. It allows advanced searches
where several key words can be listed as essential and where
searches can be narrowed by date, language or country. Some of
the material highlighted will only be available on the Web and
some will be online versions of printed publications.
The London Stock Exchange
and Wall Street
are easily found and the great advantage with the online information
is that it1s usually the most recent. Some traders now operate
online using information which is just as readily available to
schools. For government information the HM Treasury Web site
(http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk) is ideal, whether it1s to find
out budget details or print out the latest press releases or
speeches. It1s obviously beneficial for students to access primary
sources directly, enabling them to make their own judgements
with no hints from the media.
Nevertheless many financial journals are also good sources. The Financial Times requires you
to register but the form-filling only occurs on the first visit
to the site and the service is actually free. As an exercise,
students could register themselves. They would get their own
username and password for the site and it would also provide
evidence that they had completed a business form effectively.
The Economist also
publishes online and offers its own view of the issues. With
statistics and data changing daily and even several times during
the day, the need to buy up-to-date financial journals and periodicals
has always demanded too much of the small budgets within which
Business Studies departments operate. Using Internet editions
means that the journals can be accessed when required, while
printed versions no longer need to purchased or stored. Any details
which are important can always be saved to a hard drive or floppy
disk. Saving material as "text" means that it can be
pasted into other documents and saving it as 3source2 means that
it can be viewed - just as it appears on the Internet - in a
Web browser, off-line. When copying extracts of a publication
it1s worth checking the copyright situation but essentially it
should be little different from photocopying the paper version.
Resources will always be a worry for teachers and even more so
as courses change. The Higher Still arrangements for Economics
suggest that there will be a shift towards macroeconomics. Departments
worried about resourcing this area will be able to get a lot
from the Web. Both the World
Bank and the International
Monetary Fund have informative Web sites and progress towards
Euro can also be investigated.
The future Business Management courses will require students
to explain the importance of information technology to businesses.
It would be difficult to neglect the Internet, whether e-mail
or the Web. E-mail is actually the fastest growing Internet facility
and it1s particularly popular with businesses. E-mail1s cheaper
and usually faster than the fax. Teachers of Business Studies
- with their suite of subjects - may prove to be amongst the
first in schools to use and evaluate the Internet. They certainly
can't ignore it.
The Yahoo search engine
has created a financial area with links to a whole host of sites
related to financial issues.
Electronic Yellow Pages is
an ideal resource for "obtaining and supplying information".