Small-business owners are often cited as having the least slack when it comes to decision-making, management and oversight, as small firms tend to deal with much tighter budgets and less room for error given their young and still growing compositions. What's more, the small business sector has become a bit more complex and challenging in the past few years, largely driven by the economic recovery that followed the Great Recession and boosted market saturation and competition.
Luckily, new technologies have presented these firms with opportunities to completely overhaul their operational procedures for efficiency, productivity and brand-differentiation purposes, allowing even the youngest entrepreneurs to compete with much larger entities in the process. One of the core lines of technology that is gaining steam across industries and size-classifications is business process management automation, which can go a long way toward boosting the intelligence and eradicating waste in a single motion.
Cloud-based BPM is gaining steam, and one could argue that some of the more popular forms of software, such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning, fall into this category. However, BPM is a bit more broad-reaching when it comes to the types of processes and tasks that can be targeted, and small-business owners would do well to dive into some research to see just how much of an advantage they can gain from cloud BPM software.
If you would like a comprehensive overview of the ways in which BPM automation is helping to boost productivity and efficiency among organizations of all sizes, check out this interview conducted by The Register on the subject:
So, it is worth noting that BPM is a bit behind when it comes to adoption compared to other types of automation and management software, but is gaining steam quickly as companies work to make sense of that more complex tasks and demands of their operational frameworks. Modernization of business performance is essentially dictated by automation software today, and entrepreneurs can set themselves up for success by embracing this technology as soon as possible.
A look at the numbers
Before diving into the steps necessary to get these projects off the ground in your small business, let's take a look at some of the numbers that are indicating a widespread push for higher investments into this technology. First, WinterGreen Research released a report that estimated $3.4 billion in global investments were made into BPM automation software, specifically for cloud and mobile segments, in 2014, with plenty of room for growth.
According to the analysts, the market is now forecast to see even more significant gains in the coming years, reaching $10 billion in global annual investments by the end of the decade and likely transforming significantly in that same time. After all, enhanced demand and more diverse prospect pools will tend to translate to stronger competition and innovation among vendors, and this market is certainly poised to enjoy the fruits of those labors.
The ways in which larger entities are leveraging the tools are somewhat different from small and medium-sized business behaviors, specifically when it comes to the environments in which the software is hosted. Smaller firms are more commonly looking to cloud computing service providers to acquire and use the technology, while larger entities have taken a different approach for various reasons.
"Cloud computing, mobile computing and smart devices represent the major forces impacting business process management (BPM) markets," Susan Eustis, lead author of the report, affirmed. "IBM and others are leveraging patterns to gain competitive advantage in enterprise BPM markets. Managers use large BPM systems and small and mid-size [businesses] use the BPM cloud. BPM is evolving cloud SaaS for business applications to accomplish work. The opportunity to implement apps that make automated process more responsive to the needs of customers, partners, suppliers and distributors, people use business process management (BPM) as the need for automation tools to help workers is upon all of us."
With all this in mind, it should be clear that BPM is becoming a necessity among all businesses. In fact, WinterGreen Research also argued that smooth and intelligent process automation might even be the most important step a company can take toward enhancing its own capacity to innovate and progress from strategic and operational standpoints, which in turn helps to boost profitability, brand stature and continuity in otherwise tempestuous marketplaces.
So, let's now take a look at some of the steps you will need to take to get your BPM automation projects off of the ground.
"BPM deployments begin with the identification of vendors."
Smart Data Collective contributor Sarah Caulfield recently listed the core requirements associated with BPM automation integration and deployment, affirming that begins with the identification of vendors and support systems. For small-business owners, the best path forward will almost certainly be the use of a trusted managed service provider, and entrepreneurs already acquiring cloud-based services from a vendor might be able to get these projects underway a bit more smoothly by sticking with their current partners.
According to Caulfield, virtually any individual who will be overseeing activity in these systems, or using them for that matter, will need to get educated on the finer points, especially when the project acts as the company's first pursuit of automation software for core business processes. This is a common thread in IT expert recommendations, but is too often defied, with companies instead choosing to implement the tools and hope for the best.
With strong training in place, BPM software - and virtually any other type of IT asset, for that matter - can function a bit more consistently and in such a way that yields the highest possible returns on investment. Caulfield went on to suggest the prioritization of smaller, more acute projects that are attached to the broader goals of BPM automation, looking to ensure that objectives are not so broadly reaching as to throw the overarching initiative off the tracks.
Again, with the help of a qualified cloud services provider, these types of responsibilities can be streamlined and improved for small-business owners.