There is a growing need among small and medium-sized businesses to automate their business processes, as owners strive to work with less employees and less resources than before. In fact, a survey from IBM in 2011 found that 78 percent of CIOs and CMOs in the small business space said that they are looking for cloud-based automation solutions in the next six to eight months. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools out there for small businesses to automate those processes that would be time consuming and error prone if done manually or without technology.
“Automation is using tech to take over responsibilities and requirements,” said Ed Abrams, vice resident of the small and medium-sized business division of IBM. “These are things [that small businesses] can simplify and get away from managing.”
Automation can be useful if it fulfills a role that’s important to the business, but not the passion of the business, such as payroll, human resources, and inventory. Abrams also emphasized that many of these solutions are meant to help small businesses, even though they may be more cautious about implementing these solutions.
“There’s a misconception that moving to automation is expensive,” he said. “That’s not the case. It’s not just for large companies.”
Just what’s out there in terms of automation software and solutions? Well, there’s Vend and Shopify for inventory and online sales, Xero for accounting, and ExactTarget for marketing (not an exhaustive list by any means). However, Abrams suggested that small businesses don’t automize everything, and should take the time to think about what would best for the business.
“It’s not a set it and forget it,” he said. “You still have to manage the totality and not just throw it over the wall.”
To find the most appropriate solution, the best thing to do is to form partnerships with local information technology providers. Abrams said that it’s local providers that will have proven offerings and expertise while being the preference for small and medium-sized businesses.
The purpose of a partner is not just to provide the right solution, or to put a small business in touch with the right people, but also to ensure that small businesses meet government regulations. Automation can keep track of records and proof of sales, things that small businesses are required to have.
“There’s an ability through automation to capture and to find those records,” Abrams said. “You need to have that partner that demonstrates understanding and has a proven record of success.”