Plenty of good reasons to buy a computer
How can I make most advantage of management figures? How can I access up-to-date information and other people in my business? How do I speed up decision-making? You need a computer, says Yorkshire farmer and software specialist Charles Collinson
As profits fluctuate, so keeping your finger on the pulse become more difficult, with everyday jobs consuming so much time.
The computer organises figures and quickly presents them in an understandable way. Recording book-keeping information, for example, is as simple as filling out an invoice. Nominal, sales and purchase ledgers are made easy, as are VAT and pay-roll.
At the press of a button, you can review customer accounts and turnover, purchase accounts, VAT returns, enterprise margins, stock evaluations and budget performances. And while time is required to learn to use the machine, this is soon more than recouped.
Spreadsheets are used to process figures. Used like a calculator, they provide a large area for figures and formulas. But a calculator can only process a single calculation, whereas a spreadsheet can process thousands in seconds. It is far easier to check they are correct, too.
Accounts, enterprise costings, budgets and business planning can be dealt with. Using a spreadsheet as you would a monthly cash analysis book, for example, it recalculates everything every time you enter a new figure. This would be time-consuming and inaccurate by hand.
Information is the key to good management. The database is the most commonly-used software for it.
Modern databases provide very powerful tools to design "forms" (what you see on the screen to aid information entry and retrieval), as well as calculate and manipulate your data. Unlike written records, the database is excellent at retrieving and reporting data back. And so it can help with highly specific requests, such as which fields had Roundup applied at more than £X, supplied by a particular chemical consultant.
A good database can find any information, or combination of information from entered data, as well as make calculations. Results are reported back to you in a format you can understand in seconds.
Despite extensive Press coverage, many are unaware of the basic advantages of the Internet.
Unlike the phone, answering machine, or fax, it provides you with a worldwide message service that both you and others use at your convenience. No more engaged tones, no lost mail, no quality loss in text, or images as compared to faxes, send actual computer files so the recipient can use them on their computer.
It also allows you to discuss issues and get answers. But, unlike many clubs, the Internet is far larger and contains varied members from around the globe.
Such packages are designed for agricultural management. No longer a niche market, agriculture now has many software companies supporting it.
And although usually more expensive than general-purpose applications, configured to do similar functions, such software should be simpler to use, as they cater for your specific needs.
Computer Aided Design is technical drawing made available to everyone. Used widely for planning applications and construction work it also helps with farm design jobs, such as buildings and implements. It helps with scale, measurements, presentation and drawing straight, or curved lines.
Word processing/Desk top publishing
The computer provides the user with skills in writing and page design comparable with the leading publishers. This magazine was compiled on an application you can purchase.
Deleting, moving and copying blocks of text, spell, grammar and word-meaning checks are fast and simple operations for these applications. Rewriting is also a thing of the past, as once anything is written it can be reprinted or modified.
Desktop publishing, which can integrate pictures with text, is the modern extension of simple word processing. And placement of both can be manipulated on screen by merely pointing at them.
The number of readily available pictures, or typefaces, is immense and provide any user with a "quick start" solution to professional, detailed letters, pamphlets, or promotion material.
Mass mailing is also simplified – the word processor can take each name and write a personalised letter to each on the list.
Despite the advantages, a lack of apparently unbiased help, the perceived inability to budget for all costs and the fear of being unable to grasp new technology discourage some farmers from computerising their business. But look a bit harder – there are lots of pluses. *
Information and images – available at the press of a button.