INSIDE TALK - MIKE BERMAN THREE PROGRAMS FOR TAKING THE AGONY OUT OF ROUTINE TASKS

INSIDE TALK - MIKE BERMAN THREE PROGRAMS FOR TAKING THE AGONY OUT OF ROUTINE TASKS

Three tasks many in the transportation business dread: setting up business

plans, reviewing employees' performance and tracking projects.

We took a look at three programs designed to tackle these tasks and discovered that, though they didn't make the jobs more likeable, they made them a lot easier."B-Plan," from B-Plan Software, helps you set up a business plan by asking questions about you, your company and your goals. It also can import data from any spreadsheet, such as Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3.

David Solomon, the developer of "B-Plan," has made it easy to generate the text and data necessary you need to present to banks or other sources of funds in order to get money to expand your business or even set up another one.

The program generates profit-and-loss statements, cash-flow analyses, break- even analyses and financial ratios. It can generate simulations using different scenarios. In addition, it will generate a five-year plan, an historical financial statement and a 12-month budget.

It can provide graphs of all of your data to make it easier for the bankers and others to interpret the data.

Now that your loan's been approved you can take advantage of "ManagePro,"

from Avantos Performance Systems.

"ManagePro" allows you to track the performance of your employees by setting up goals for each one and following their progress by tracking projects. It generates warnings if a project is falling too far behind or one of the members of the project team isn't performing up to snuff.

The program is easy to use and allows you either to enter your own criteria for data or to use templates set up by other managers. These templates are fully customizable, letting you modify them to fit your needs.

"ManagePro" generates reports that can be distributed to team members, showing them where the problems lie and who is holding up his (or her) end of the project. This can be extremely useful when reviewing an employee's performance.

Which brings us to "Review Writer," also from Avantos.

"Review Writer" will guide you through the task of writing performance reviews and is designed to pick up data from "ManagePro" that shows how well employees perform tasks assigned to them.

This program allows you to set up a template containing all the criteria you need to organize a review, making suggestions along the way. It also generates a rating system allowing you to assign a value to each task.

Once these values are assigned, it generates a sentence evaluating the employee's effectiveness and suggests ways for him to improve his performance. And, allowing that even computers aren't perfect, you can edit these sentences to make them more appropriate for specific people.

And, to top it all off, the program will perform a "legal check," which searches for words that may get you into trouble - such as "idiot" and ''numbskull."

USING A FAX MODEM FOR SCANNING

Ever wish you could turn your fax machine into a scanner? Well, Zoom Telephonics has become your fairy godmother and pointed its magic wand at a 14.4-baud fax modem to produce a device with "hotscan" technology.

This means the modem allows you to scan documents into your computer using the copy mode on your fax machine.

Simple, you say? Not really.

Although you can easily use fax modems to receive faxed documents on your computer, this neat device allows you to accomplish this feat without having to use telephone lines.

We tried it with all types of documents. Allowing for errors in translation

from scanned text to data - which were minimal - the modem worked perfectly.

PRINTING GRAPHICS FASTER

How often have you sat by your Laserjet waiting for it to print graphical material? Fifteen minutes? Twenty?

These delays can be aggravating and costly. Now they're unnecessary!

We've been testing the new Panasonic Laser Partner 6100 printer using full- and partial-page graphics and have been pleasantly surprised.

This new printer, which is designed for Microsoft Windows, was able to generate pages containing graphics in seconds rather than minutes, using a printer language Panasonic has developed known as GDI.

Simply put, Laserjets - and printers that emulate them - have to translate documents into PCL, or Printer Control Language, which is then read by the printer. When it comes to graphics, this translation process can take a long time, sometimes hours.

GDI, or the Graphics Data Interface, is able to interpret graphics without translating them, speeding up the printing process.

The Panasonic 6100 includes photo-enhancement technology and 600-dpi print quality. It will also display the status of your print job on your computer, featuring an animated help window to show you the source of a jam or the like.