Taking a Spin on CD-ROM

Article excerpt

If you're looking for a new spin on your job, try CD-ROM. Unlike other computer upgrades, this one's cheap and practical. In fact, you might not even realize that some PCs have the capability to install an internal drive for as little as $100. "If a CD drive costs about $100, it wouldn't take many times using it to save $100 worth of an HR person's time," says Jim Hemphill of Kalamazoo, Michigan-based I/NET Information Networkers. That's good news for human resources professionals who need to create, store, access and analyze voluminous amounts of information, but don't want to invest thousands of dollars to enjoy the benefits.

"Multimedia computing is becoming very popular and very inexpensive," says Neil Fox, a technology specialist at Cleveland-based TRW. Multimedia refers to using more than one medium to convey a message. In the PC context, it means adding video and sound to the usual text and graphics. The basic components you need to add multimedia compatibility are a CD-ROM drive, a sound card and stereo speakers. "Most people that bought CD [players] early on hooked them up to their computers to play audio disks," he says.

But today, with more than 5,000 choices of CD-ROM programs, the business community is jumping on the bandwagon of those who've already discovered the beauty of integrated audio, visual, touch, graphic, text and animation programs. According to San Jose, California-based Dataquest, almost 17 million CD-ROM drives were shipped worldwide last year. The company expects more than 36% of all desktop PCs to be connected to a CD-ROM drive by the end of 1996. In other words, more than six times as many desktop computers will have CD-ROM drives two years from now. "Last year (1994) was the first year that CD-ROM arrived as a mainstream product," says Patty Chang, principal analyst at Dataquest. Major contributing factors to the CD-ROM drive market include a booming home PC market, improved multimedia software, leaps in PC computing power and decreasing CD-ROM drive prices. The CD-ROM bonanza subsequently has created new markets and new opportunities for publishers, software developers, disk duplicators and content rights holders, according to Dataquest.

For users, however, a word of caution: You may actually fall in love with your seductive multimedia computer. Of course, you wouldn't want your boss to catch you searching for risotto recipes, exploring the secrets of Myst or customizing a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar. But there are human resources-related CDs that you just shouldn't be without. Indeed, HR professionals nationwide are beginning to use CDs for file storage, training, employee orientations and research. Instead of just reading standard text and graphics, today's user can view color presentations with background music and all sorts of fun and creative features. But if you're still in doubt, here's a few likely HR scenarios that might encourage your company to consider creating or purchasing available CD-ROM programs:

* Problem: Your bookshelf is overstuffed with five-inch binders of government regulations and company policies. Aside from attracting dust mites, should an earthquake occur any one of them could land on your head and leave a bump the size of an eight ball. Solution: You can fill up to 600 times more information on a CD than on a floppy disk. They also can be reproduced for a couple of dollars, updated easily and distributed to large numbers of individuals. So either create your own CD storage files in-house or stock your library with some of the more popular programs available through providers such as the Bureau of National Affairs' Human Resources Library, Foster City, California-based Information Access Company's InfoTrac(R) or Riverbrook, Illinois-based CCH, Inc.'s HR Library.

* Problem: Your company has just hired 10 new sales representatives, but you don't have enough HR personnel to conduct that intimate, informal orientation on their first day. …

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