The Introduction of Business Process Support Systems

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BusinessProcessSupportThe first computerized business systems focused primarily on data storage and reporting. When the terminal or computer monitor was introduced the potential for computerized systems expanded considerably. Of course the challenges of storage capacity and memory resources stunted growth in this area. But the ability to enter information into the computer from multiple screens brought with it the multi-user environment. Managers began to realize that they could streamline processes and reduce costs by developing software programs that could support an entire business process step by step through to completion. So the processes by which calculation and recording of information were done offline and entered into the computer at the end of the process began to be replaced with software that allowed information to be entered into the computer at the beginning of the process and more information to be added at subsequent points.

It should be noted that the early business process support systems were linear in nature. That is – the steps in the process had to be followed in a specific order. So the software systems were largely rigid and as business circumstances changed methods employed often resulted in activities taking place outside previously defined workflow. This limiting aspect of system architecture became the impetus for future systems that were able to support business changes more readily.

The auto repair order process in its basic form consists of identifying vehicle repair requirements, determining labor and parts needed, quoting a price to the customer, obtaining approval to service the vehicle, performing the services needed, delivering the vehicle and collecting payment. In transitioning from a [manual process] or the early [electronic data storage model] the biggest change was that the repair order was created in the system at the beginning of the process and information was added to it as the vehicle progressed through the repair cycle.

However at this stage in the evolution of computerized systems the initial step usually still included a manual form on which the customer, vehicle and repair requirements were written. Then in a subsequent step they were entered into the computer. In fact most of the steps in the process were still done on paper then entered into the computer. Once these types of systems were absorbed into the auto repair business environment, managers began to notice the duplication of effort inherent in writing things on paper then keying them into the computer. Market demand propelled the computer manufacturers to produce systems that allowed for more capacity and more online users. People then began to enter information directly into the computer system at the point in the process at which it was generated.

The era in which business process support systems proliferated resulted in enormous productivity increases as well as work environment and job requirements changes. Work space was redesigned to allow for computer monitors and people were required to be able to operate computers and have reasonable typing skills. This was a revolutionary advancement in the evolution of computerized systems and a cornerstone in the foundation of the systems that would be developed in the future.

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