Sometimes I worry about the people that think computers are out to replace them. People that worry machines are going to take their jobs don't have as much to be afraid of as they seem to think they do.
From my perspective machines are an excellent supplement to dispatch the busy work. I look at a lot of sales departments and can't help but see how they can be positively augmented with an e-commerce web site. Computers are great at doing things over and over again especially simple things-- like filling orders from people that already like what you are selling and how you do business.
I see the machine as a tool that frees the salesman to do what the computer cannot do very well. A computer is not very good at finding new clients or convincing them that any company is the best value proposition. The best they can do is give you a positive 'face' on the internet and outline prices and practices.
Sometimes, it takes compromise to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement. A computer is not good at that, you need a person. People are the lifeblood of a business, they can see that shipping larger quantities per box may sway that one client that wants to save a few bucks on shipping. Computers are tools, they are not even mildly proficient negotiators.
And that is exactly how I suggest they be used, not to replace-- but to supplement the manpower already in place to significantly bolster productivity. What could you do to make yourself more valuable to your company and improve it's return on the cost of your salary? Would the relief of mundane and simple work allow you more time to think about and execute such changes?
And then there is paper. If you have a few hours to burn ask me about paper. Most people think of a piece of paper as inexpensive, cheap even. Hell you throw away or send out half of all the paper you use. But, think about it. You don't buy one piece of paper. Just at home we buy 500 sheets at time. A business will usually buy one or several cases at a time. --But you're sending half of it out. --And your customers and suppliers are sending as much right back to you. Now you're saving those paper case boxes to put files into because those file cabinets that you paid for are taking up square footage that you pay for and are being manipulated by employees that are being paid for. Paper is very expensive. The cost of paper is not linear, it is a variable cost that only goes up over time. The TCO of paper has no limit until you dispose of it. It is a plateau effect due to the somewhat constant cost of storage interspersed with cost spikes every time that piece of paper is touched or moved. Paper may be in the top ten of your total costs.
Computers, a decent amount of programming, and data entry can put an entire public library full of information into a space that is in total around three cubic feet. With the exception of books and government mandated paperwork that is required to be on paper, computers are the preferred storage medium in raw cost. I wish I had numbers to back up my theory, I just don't at this time.
Copying electronic data and working with it is almost always less error prone and faster. How much do transcription errors cost?
I will close with this, machines are excellent supplements to good workers and a fantastic replacement for paper based information systems. We just don't leverage our technological superiority as often as we should.