No matter how much technology you pump into a company, it seems that you just can't escape the basic hands-on tasks of everyday business, like signing off on purchase orders and invoice approvals or tracking time sheets and activating customer accounts.
Although many people believe that it's simply too complicated or too expensive to computerize these kinds of processes, Nsite, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based company offers an online service that it says "automates manual processes that require judgment, decision making and approval and are being done today through e-mail, spreadsheets and paper forms."
Improving the Process
Rosie Hausler, Nsite's vice-president of marketing said that the company's Predictive Routing Engine simplifies the automation process and requires no modeling or coding on the customer's part. "When a customer comes on board, we sit down with them and create a SmartForm for each process," she said. "We can create an original or base it on a paper form the customer already uses."
"The first time you initiate a process say for invoice approval you create a route path that lists all the people the electronic document must go to. You pick the names from a drop down list of your registered employees or vendors." Hausler points out that creating the route path is a one-time event. From that point on, the system automatically knows where to route the document.
"The Predictive Routing Engine lets you make changes on the fly," she said. "You can add or delete people from the routing, and you can even make real-time changes to a form that's already been routed."
Since the service is based on the ASP model, you can use the service anywhere as long as you have access to a Web browser. "This is especially handy for keeping track of business expenses when you're traveling," said Hausler.
Nsite offers its services in three distinct areas, or "SmartSuites," and each SmartSuite contains five different processes, or "SmartForms," related to its specialty. Here's how it breaks down:
Sales Operations SmartSuite
|Know It All Nsite lets you see the immediate status of your business processes at a glance.|
- Request for Quote
- Proposal Review and Approval
- Contract Review and Approval
- Sales Order Change Request
- Sales Support Request
Spend Management SmartSuite
- Purchase Request
- Invoice Approval
- Expense Report SmartForm
- Travel Authorization SmartForm
- Capital Acquisition Request
Customer and Field Services SmartSuite
- Customer Implementation Sign-off
- Project Status
- Installation Task Check List
- Customer Action Request
According to Hausler, automating these business processes helps companies be more efficient. "Nsite gives the processes more visibility within the company," she said. "At any give point in time, you can logon and see the status of a proposal, approval or an expense. Automation makes it much easier to keep projects and tasks on schedule."
A Real-World Opinion
Platform Learning, a New York City-based company provides supplemental educational services along with after-school, weekend and summer tutoring programs to public school students. The company provides services to schools in 18 states, has over 50,000 students enrolled in its programs and began using Nsite in September 2004.
"Putting together educational classes and programs for kids is a very paper-intensive proposition," said Joe Sorisi, Platform Learning's CIO. "Just one course requires numerous approvals for the number of students, teachers, the curriculum and supplies. "Multiply that times the number of courses and then expand it across 18 states. It takes a lot of departments to put the puzzle together."
Prior to using Nsite, Sorisi said their business processes were paper intensive and required lots of hand-offs. "We didn't have any efficient way to track the status of any given process. "We went looking for a way to work smarter."
Platform Learning chose Nsite because the ASP model-based service met the company's requirement for rapid deployment. "We were up and running quickly," he said. "Nsite streamlined our processes and now we can visibly track what's going on and see what's going where and who has it." The other big factor, according to Sorisi, is that IBM hosts Nsite's service.
Currently, Platform Learning uses all 15 of the SmartForm processes within the three SmartSuites. "What used to take us five days to circulate now only takes one," said Sorisi. "We can route curriculum and supply orders to outside vendors and easily track all of the processes that go into putting classes together," he said.
Before automating with Nsite, handling these tasks manually tied up the company's resources, work hours and its ability to make decisions quickly. "These tools are so flexible," said Sorisi. "They help us get the kids into the classes sooner. That saves us time, and time is money."
Nsite sells its services by the SmartSuite. Choose the Suite you want and gain access to all five processes (note: you can't mix and match processes all five have to be from the same SmartSuite). The cost is $30 per-person per month for up to 50 people: over 50 and the price per-person drops.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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