More and more business processes are now affordable and accessible to small and medium-sized businesses on an outsourced basis, and more and more SMBs are taking advantage of the opportunities that presents.
More and more business processes are now affordable and accessible to small and medium-sized businesses on an outsourced basis, and more and more SMBs are taking advantage of the opportunities that presents. A major driver behind this trend is the emergence of cloud computing over the last few years. “Cloud is playing a huge role in terms of enabling SMBs to automate and integrate. The investment barriers to entry – hardware, software, and personnel to implement and maintain BPO – have been removed in many cases,” says Seth Miller, founder and CEO of Miller Systems, a user-experience and technology consulting firm. He adds that cloud has also enabled service providers to deliver affordable business process-intensive solutions to SMBs.
Flexibility and scalability are two of the big advantages cloud-based BPO offers to SMBs. When you outsource all or part of a particular business process via the cloud, you can benefit from the service provider’s standardized technological offerings, points out Scott Dayvault, service delivery manager, BPO operations at Velocity Technology Solutions, a cloud application hosting company. Cloud-based BPO providers typically offer a selection of “tried and true” applications and services that are flexible and scalable to meet the needs of SMBs. “This flexibility makes for much faster onboarding of the new business, as well as quicker leveraging of the existing standardized knowledge and technology offered by the provider,” Dayvault says.
Many growth-oriented SMBs have trouble competing against bigger businesses that have larger workforces and more expansive technology infrastructure to support their evolving business and technology requirements, notes Brian Burns, director of cloud services at Agile Defense, Inc., an information technology solutions provider. Cloud computing, much like BPO itself, “allows those small and medium-sized organizations to have access to the same mature resources that were not previously available,” he says. SMBs can use cloud computing for everything from their public website and critical applications to housing virtual desktops that employees can access from any Internet-connected device.
John Mone, chief information officer at Endurance International Group, a provider of cloud-based Web hosting and related services, calls out several other attributes of cloud computing that support or enhance its role as a channel to provide outsourced business services. These include:
- Centralization, with connected, online services providing greater opportunities for collaboration, version management, and improved data quality.
- Parallel processing, since offloading services to the cloud frees up resources on local devices, which can improve productivity.
- Geographic diversity, to address network latency and redundancy.
- High availability, to ensure reliable access to services when they are needed most.
- Security, to protect data from being misappropriated and processes from being hacked.
- Mobility, allowing work to be done from any location, on any device, at any time.
- Administration, especially simplified and streamlined provisioning and reporting to manage and monitor access rights, roles, and permissions.
As cloud-based BPO becomes more ubiquitous, it is moving in the direction of commoditization, so quality of service should be a key consideration for SMBs, stresses Sam Liu, vice president of marketing at Soonr, a provider of secure file-sharing and collaboration services. “In many respects, this is still an emerging industry, so choose your provider with the expectation that things – the market, your business, etc. – can and will change,” he counsels. “It’s important to consider providers’ adaptability to changing environments and to look at their target markets, both volume and size of companies, to ensure that you’ll get attention when needed.”