Business process automation (BPA) isn't exclusive to large enterprises anymore. Small businesses are increasingly adopting technology that lets them boost productivity and improve efficiency by ditching manual processes.
Of course, small businesses aren't quite deploying big budget solutions, said Seth Robinson, director of technology analysis for CompTIA, the IT trade organization. "You don't have small businesses installing an ERP [enterprise resource planning] program," he told Small Business Computing.
BPA Technology Helps Small Businesses
Nonetheless, they are weaving together the technology components that let them spend more time serving their customers, faster. Robinson happily reports "good adoption of technology across businesses of all sizes."
When it comes to BPA, there is no one-stop solution, says CompTIA. Typically, it consists of three parts: software that tackles discrete functions such as invoicing; connectors between applications so that they can hand off work to one another and maintain a workflow; and finally a central data repository.
CompTIA's research shows an increase in small businesses that are piecing together these components. In a two-part study of 500 IT decision makers and 500 IT firms in the U.S., the group found that three quarters of small businesses (companies with fewer than 100 employees) have experienced a moderate or significant increase in the use of BPA technologies over the past two years.
Those gains are made possible, in large part, to increased cloud adoption. Of the top three technologies used by small firms to automate their work processes, cloud computing comes in first at 65 percent. Mobile devices and data analytics closely follow at 51 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
Robinson credits the cloud's ability to provide affordable, user-friendly technology services for "shaking up the IT landscape, really changing the way that businesses do IT." As more organizations discover its benefits, the cloud services market is "going to continue building momentum," he predicted.
Improve Efficiency with Business Process Automation
Small businesses are turning to BPA solutions to help them overcome challenges and better serve their customers. The most pressing issues that companies reported include bottlenecks that slow down work (48 percent) and time-wasting duplication of work (46 percent).
Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they sought to fix the disconnection between departments that hinders collaboration and coordination, while 33 percent hoped to make it easier to locate documents. Twenty-seven percent said they are turning to BPA technology to help them gain visibility into their business processes.
Robinson noted that technology has evolved from a support role to become integral in running a modern-day business. In a statement, he said it "is increasingly used to meet business objectives and drive differentiation."
BPA may not grab headlines like other business-boosting technology trends such as social media, but it can have a major impact on a company's bottom line. Robinson added that BPA's knack for driving "improvements to internal operations that reduce costs also contribute to the profitability equation."
Attaining more efficient, profit-building workflows may seem like a daunting task for busy small business owners. Robinson advocates taking things one step at a time. "There are many facets of internal operations that BPA can improve; and while it may be too complicated to pursue a strategy that addresses all needs, starting with the most significant issues and planning for the future is a smart approach," he said.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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