What are the technology requirements to get your small or medium-sized business connected to most cloud-based business process outsourcing (BPO) services? In almost all cases, a laptop or desktop computer and a reliable Internet connection – wired or wireless – is all it takes.
What are the technology requirements to get your small or medium-sized business connected to most cloud-based business process outsourcing (BPO) services? In almost all cases, a laptop or desktop computer and a reliable Internet connection – wired or wireless – is all it takes. “Nothing else is required except to remember your passwords,” says Keith Mueller, CEO of BookKeeping Express Enterprises, Inc., a national bookkeeping and financial reporting firm. “Plus, the applications can be combined and integrated via application program interfaces (APIs), so no in-house support is needed for integration.”
There are exceptions to the rule, however, notes David M. Moore, president of Phantom Consulting, an IT outsourcing company. Healthcare providers, for instance, face regulations that can add layers of technology on top of standard requirements, and companies in banking and finance are also highly regulated, which can influence their technology needs. In general, though, the minimal technology requirements allow SMBs to access “the same services and tools that big corporations use for a fraction of the dollars it used to cost,” he says.
Technology compatibility between your business and your BPO providers is a consideration, but mostly on the application level. Even there, it’s more a question of your comfort level with the BPO provider’s applications and their suitability to your size and operating style, Mueller says. For example, an inventory application from a provider that typically targets larger enterprises might just be too complicated – and expensive – for an SMB. It makes no sense to pay for features and/or capacity you don’t currently need and are not likely to need in the near future. If your needs do change going forward, switching to a new provider is generally an easy process. “You want to feel that you’re getting the most efficient processes and functionality for your business. But if something better comes along, you could add to or replace the solution with little or no trade-out costs,” he says. That eliminates the risk of sunk capital, and training costs are negligible or nonexistent.
Because there is a large and growing number of cloud-based BPO providers crowding into this space, SMBs should adopt a standardized vetting process and apply it to each potential vendor. Moore suggests conducting an initial consultation via telephone or video conference and requesting a list of references or a portfolio of clients from the provider. Look for vendors that have worked with companies that are in the same or a similar space as your business but are not direct competitors. “You want evidence the vendor is familiar with your industry; you don’t want them learning about your field on your dime,” he says. Also pay close attention to the vendor’s marketing materials to see if they are targeted toward businesses like yours. Before signing a contract, do an on-site visit to the vendor’s facility. “You’ll be trusting them with an essential service for your success. Make sure you’re comfortable with how the company operates,” Moore emphasizes.
Cloud-based BPO makes it easy to conduct due diligence on potential providers, and even if you make a mistake, it’s usually no big deal. “It is so simple to investigate, test, and start up [a BPO service] versus the old way of buying software and hoping it meets your requirements,” Mueller says. “The up-front costs are reduced, the ability to switch is easy, and you add on no hardware or IT costs. That makes it all simpler for SMBs.”