Whether they are paper-based or in electronic format, the importance of business documents cannot be underestimated.
A company’s image and reputation can rest on the quality of the products, services and information it provides and these are often associated with the documentation it produces.
Documents can tell the story of a business; where it came from, what its aims are and the journey it has taken to achieve them. They can serve as a gateway through which a business can enter new markets and expand its reach.
Documents, then, are important on many levels;
They keep an organisation compliant. Meeting the compliance requirements of authorities is an essential aspect of good business practice and can ensure that penalties and fines for any breaches of regulations are avoided.
Annual company reports can provide an insight into an organisation’s corporate and financial standing.
Documents protect the organisation’s integrity; keeping correct and accurate documentation allows a company to present itself in the best light.
They project an image of the company and its professionalism; reflecting the company brand.
Selecting and preparing resources
Workplace efficiency comes from understanding the tasks that need to be accomplished each day and knowing the right way of completing them. This means having a sound understanding of the technology and other resources that are at your disposal and using them to maximum benefit.
The business resources you choose will depend on the job you need to do and could include (but are not limited to):
Computers and/or laptops
Digital communication tools such as email
Graphic design applications
Word processing tools
Selecting and using technology and software applications
Choosing the right resource for the right job is a matter of determining what needs to be done and deciding how best to accomplish that task with the resources at your disposal. For example, you would not use an ink jet printer to make 10 copies of a 200 page document if a photocopier was available. Equally you would probably not use a computer, word processing software and a printer to write a short note to a colleague when a hand written note or an email would do the job.
Technology is defined as “the way in which we apply scientific knowledge for practical purposes”. It includes machines, like computers, but also techniques and processes like the way in which computer chips are produced. So technology, in an office sense, will include computers, printers, photocopiers and scanners among others.
Desktop computers and laptops
Technically, a computer is an electronic device, which executes software programs. A computer consists of two parts: hardware, which is the actual device itself, and software, which are the programs (or instructions) that tell the computer what is required of it.
A computer processes information (or input) through input devices such as a mouse, touch screen or keyboard. It displaysinformation (output) through devices like a monitor – where the information can be viewed on a screen – and/or a printer – where the information is viewed on a piece of paper. Computers have become indispensable in today’s world and millions of people all over the world use them.
Computers can be used for an enormous variety of tasks such as word processing, to produce a wide variety of written documents, or for audio or video composition and editing; it no longer needs thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment to compose music or make a film. Graphics engineers can use computers to generate short or full-length films or even to create three-dimensional models. Anybody owning a computer can now enter the field of media production.
Then, with desktop publishing, you can create page layouts for entire books on a personal computer, create product brochures and, thanks to computers, which have computing speeds of over a million calculations per second we can perform complex mathematical calculations using a variety of software programs.
Businesses use computers to calculate and pay the bills; taxes can be calculated and paid online; accounting is done using computers. These among many other functions show the value of computers in business.
This is an essential business resource; it connects a business to customers, suppliers and other interested parties all over the world. It allows an organisation to quickly share information and collaborate on projects and documentation in real time. Internet access is also essential for;
Digital communication – these may include resources such as;
email providers like iCloud, Gmail, Hotmail or those provided by your workplace.
messaging using services such as WhatsApp and FaceBook Messenger
video conferencing, which has proven to be a convenient and cost efficient way to hold meetings. It saves on the cost of travel and ensures that those attending such a meeting will have all the necessary information at hand without having to transport files to external meeting venues. Meeting platforms include Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams among others.
mobile communication such as mobile phones and tablets.
Online surveys – such as Survey Monkey, are very useful tools. They allow a company to;
gain feedback on product or service performance
gather information about specific business issues they need clarification on
gain feedback on future plans and promotions to see whether the idea is worth spending time, effort and money on.
… more on technology in the learner guide …..
What are business documents
A document can represent a permanent record of a communication between the organisation and its customers, suppliers, industry authorities or government bodies. As such they should be treated with accuracy and professionalism in mind, as they may be called upon for review, audit or evidentiary purposes at any point in the future.
Business documents, then, may include (but are not limited to);
Letters – These are a relatively formal means of communication today. They are, however, still used for a variety of purposes such as formal communications regarding contracts or agreements, issues relating to human resources or any other matter that requires a formal response.
Forms and templates.
Forms are used to gather information an organisation needs to complete a process or to help them make decisions. Forms are necessary to ensure that the information gathered is consistent; when asked for opinions on customer service, for example, 100 different people will give 100 different responses; rendering the information they provide useless for any meaningful purpose. So forms are used to ask the specific questions the organisation needs to have answered; 100 different people answering specific questions will provide a consistent story that the organisation can build upon.
Templates are, in essence, the “master” version of a form; every form you fill out, is based on that master template. Whenever a change needs to be made to information requirements, it will be the template that is amended; ensuring that all subsequent forms completed will be the latest version. Template can, however, also revolve around specific document designs; showing what information should go into what space; what font must be used, where the logo should be place and so on.
Agenda – time is an important business tool and can easily be wasted during meetings when discussions move into areas that were not anticipated or are irrelevant. This can be avoided by using an agenda to keep the meeting on track. It will, generally, include;
a list of items to be discussed during a meeting
who will be speaking or addressing each item
the timeframes allocated to each topic and so on.
Meeting minutes – these work in conjunction with the agenda. Minutes are a detailed list of what was actually discussed during the meeting. They would also detail what action is to be taken, as a result of the discussions, by whom and within what period of time.
Simple reports – most organisations will use reports on a range of subjects; they might be reports created by accountants that provide overviews or details of the company’s financial situation, they might be reports that show what sales have been made over a given time period, they might be related to complaint handling and continuous improvement progress. Whatever the purpose, reports are necessary for managers so that decisions can be made on various aspects of the business; so accuracy is important.
Spreadsheets – as mentioned, these can be used for a variety of purposes – mostly dealing with calculations and statistics.
Selecting layout and style of publication
The way a document looks is very important. Often, the first contact you have with a customer or client may be in writing so whatever document you have sent or prepared for them must represent the organisation and project a professional image. In order to achieve this many organisations will have set guidelines to ensure that all documents produced meet required standards. These might relate to;
style guides for document design
general organisational requirements
access and equity issues
Style guides for document design
Style guides are documents that outline the rules that staff must follow when producing documents. Style guides can be developed for both paper-based and online user documentation and may include information on such things as;
Margins – how many spaces to leave between the top and bottom edges of the document and how wide the space at each side should be. Text should be well centred on the page; that is, not too near the top of the page and not too near the bottom, with equal margins on each side.
Font style –most companies have a standard font that is to be used in all written communication. The ‘font’ determines what the writing looks like. This training manual, for example, uses Calibri Other examples of fonts include Times new roman,Arial, brush script, Comic sans
The font style can be accessed by going to the home menu bar of your word processing program; clicking on the small down arrow in the font selection option and choosing the type of font you wish. See screen shots below;
Point size – this refers to how large the letters appear. This text is typeset in Calibri point size 11. Sometimes you may wish to highlight a portion of your text and you can do this by increasing or decreasing the point size. For example: … continued in learner guide….