Although MEI sub-contracts for many technological specialties, such as typesetting and printing, we do extensively employ appropriate technologies. We utilize an array of technologically advanced equipment – from computers to computerized mailing equipment – to provide clients with state-of-the-art communications, administration and reporting.
We use personal computers for their more usual applications such as word processing, accounting, and small database applications. However, to meet the unique accounting and meeting/conference registration needs of associations, we have written our own programs within a relational database manager. These enable us to access critical data on-line and provide clients with timely, easily understood reports.
More importantly, we use these computers for telecommunication. We routinely scan a large electronic database, downloading articles and news reports for inclusion in newsletters and publications. We download articles and stories written by clients’ members and freelance writers. Regardless of source, including material we write ourselves, we telecommunicate text for traditional typesetting and page layout, or for further manipulation by desktop publishing technology, saving the time, cost and inevitable errors of additional keystroking.
We also use computers for membership administration. But in this case they are located at a computer service bureau. The program used – the Membership Management System (MMS) program – was custom-designed by us for the membership tracking, accounting and reporting needs of associations. Under the management and guidance of MEI, the service performs all data entry and provides four levels of security “backup” of the membership data – at a cost much less than doing it ourselves.
Our telephone system is equipped with a call-accounting computer enabling us to document, by client, both number and exact cost of all telephone calls. It uses discounted long distance networks for economy, for routine calls as well as for teleconferences which reduce travel costs. And each client has a minimum of two lines reserved exclusively for its use which are answered in its name.
Routine mailing is performed in-house with the aid of a computerized mailing machine capable of automatically calculating postage, based on destination and weight. This machine captures exact postage use for each client by program function, allowing program by program comparisons of mailing costs. Alternate carriers such as UPS or Federal Express are used when appropriate for savings in postage. For mailings of more than 200 individual pieces, we use a mailing service vendor to take advantage of reduced postage rates and volume efficiency.
A computer controlled copier/duplicator meets day-to-day copying needs. It tracks the number of copies provided each client by program function (board meetings, publications, finance, etc.). Unless time is of the essence, larger copying needs are performed at a local “quick print” shop because of the time and cost savings.
We employ a fax machine for world-wide communication of documents.
MEI is technologically capable and proficient. But we don’t make the all too easy mistake of viewing technology as an end in and of itself. Rather, we view technology as a means to an end. We employ technology, not for its own sake, but as a business tool.