The technologies collectively known as SMAC – social, mobile, analytics and cloud – are impacting business in ways almost too numerous to count. One clear trend is their ability to give small and medium size businesses (SMBs) access to some of the productivity-boosting capabilities once enjoyed only by their larger competitors.
This trend is evidenced by a new study from non-profit IT trade association CompTIA that found growth in the use of business process automation (BPA) among SMBs (which CompTIA categorizes as companies with fewer than 100 employees). SMBs are converting paper and manual processes including expense reporting, invoicing and employment reviews to digital form, according to CompTIA's Trends in Workflow Automation and Communications study.
CompTIA's definition of BPA is rather broad, encompassing not only the software applications used for functions such as invoicing or employee management, but also the connections between applications and a central data repository.
Three-fourths of SMBs surveyed by CompTIA reported a significant or moderate increase in their use of BPA technology over the past two years.
"Technology is no longer functioning in a simple support role, but is increasingly used to meet business objectives and drive differentiation," said Seth Robinson, CompTIA's director of technology analysis, in a statement. "Companies with aggressive technology adoption mindsets are able to advance to process-level issues and create competitive advantage."
CompTIA found that SMBs are using SMAC technologies to build out their automated processes. Sixty-five percent of respondents mentioned using cloud computing, while 51 percent cited mobile technology and 45 percent reported using data analytics.
"These technologies make automation simpler, allow for faster response times and provide platforms for organizing and analyzing digital data," Robinson said. "As businesses become more familiar with these concepts and others, they’ll continue building automation into their processes and drive focus and energy back into business objectives and innovation."
CompTIA asked companies to identify the areas where they hope to attain workflow improvements through the use of BPA. The top five responses:
- Bottlenecks that slow things down (mentioned by 48 percent of respondents)
- Duplication of work (46 percent)
- Poor interaction between departments (39 percent)
- Difficulty locating documents (33 percent)
- Lack of business process visibility (27 percent)
"Technology and trends that generate additional revenue or new business tend to draw the most attention, but improvements to internal operations that reduce costs also contribute to the profitability equation," Robinson said.
The research was based on an online survey of 500 U.S. IT and business professionals involved in IT decision making, and a separate survey of 500 U.S. IT firms. CompTIA offers its research at no cost to CompTIA members.