For most office managers, buying computers or software can be quite a hassle. All that flipping through catalogs, phoning around for the best prices, and then dealing with purchase orders and invoices. And don't even think about what happens if there's a problem with the order when it arrives.
Now, Catalink Direct Inc. in Norwood, Mass., is trying to make the process paperless. Its Personal Electronic Catalog & Ordering System (PECOS) uses a CD-ROM disk for IBM-compatible PCs that lists more than 15,000 hardware and software items. Customers can browse through it page by page or automatically search for specific items. The disk also contains an electronic order form that, once filled out, can be phoned by modem directly into Catalink's computer. It checks that all prices are current and will automatically notify the customer if an item is out of stock or its price has changed. What's more, PECOS links to popular software packages such as Lotus, cc:Mail, and Microsoft Access. Since PECOS purchase orders are electronic, they can be e-mailed among department heads for approval or annotated with extra data--internal accounting codes, say--so records of past orders will be easier to manage.