What's one way to manage home-based employees? Electronic-bulletin-board systems -- BBSs for short. Most people think BBSs are cyberspace chat areas or inexpensive vehicles software companies use to offer technical support.

Unibase has discovered a different BBS business application, created with PCBoard BBS software (from Clark Development, at 800-356-1686). At the Sandy, Utah, company, managers use electronic bulletin boards to assign projects to their 2,000 employees and to monitor their progress. As a result, the $30-million company's four BBSs are essential to day-to-day internal operations. Here's how the setup works, according to Unibase BBS administrator Alif Ambler.

Unibase sells data-entry services to other companies, particularly corporations that collect information on handwritten forms but store their data on computers. Those customers use Unibase-owned equipment to scan completed forms into a computer and to send them over phone lines -- often cross-country -- to Unibase. There, software programs organize the incoming documents into bundles of about 100 and distribute them over the company's BBSs to Unibase employees, many of whom work at home, at night. Those employees download files of forms and key the handwritten data from the scanned forms into a typed format, ready for the customers' computer databases. After the employees finish typing the data, they log back in to the bulletin boards and return the files. Meanwhile, the bulletin-board software enables the company's managers to monitor assignments' progress.