Intranet as a Driver for Business Process Automation in SMB


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Modern intranet solutions have grown far beyond being just simple collaboration and communication tools. However, the sector itself is still too young to have developed a hard-and-fast list of obligatory features, and vendors are actively expanding their functionality by introducing more task-oriented tools.

In fact, the industry is moving towards adopting the full range of features to provide customers a self-sufficient platform for internal work. Ideally, an intranet should serve as a universal interface with a full range of capabilities necessary to solve business-critical tasks.
The latest trend in intranet development is powering the products with handy tools for business process automation (BPA). At first glance, including this feature may appear to be misguided. Large enterprises normally use legacy tools like Oracle BPM Suite, Microsoft BizTalk, or IBM WebSphere Process Server to connect various applications and services with business processes. Intranet-specific BPA can hardly replace these tools as the enterprise IT environment requirements overwhelms the functionality of intranets.

The SMB case is different. The problem is that SMBs can hardly figure out how to benefit from BPA. There is a common perception about business processes in the SMB market. Many organizations believe that no software can really handle this duty adequately, and if it can, it would be so complicated and expensive as to make it untenable. Both assumptions are no more than misperceptions inherited from the “good old times” of pricey customized intranets for large enterprises.
But at the same time, implementing prevalent business processes inside the intranet allows SMBs comprehensive monitoring of employee performance, streamlining of workflow to a single platform, and better business visibility and transparency. What is important is that it doesn’t entail extra expenses for additional software acquisition and maintenance.

Properly automated business processes give any organization a number of business advantages. They save employees time and thus increase their productivity; they let you orchestrate internal activity and control task performance; and they unify scattered collaborative efforts and communication tools, transforming them into a solid and interlinked system.

BPA works as a superstructure covering intranet activity and synchronizing people, teams and tasks. Imagine the common task of invoice payment. Usually the procedure starts with printing the invoice, followed by filling out a payment request, getting a number of signatures, passing it over to the financial department and poking the responsible people to get feedback. Quite familiar isn’t it? And of course boring, and rather distracting for employees with more critical business tasks. Most importantly, one should always keep an eye on the process so as not to let it stall.

With intranet intranet BPA in place, this procedure transforms into a single action. The employee simply invokes a ready-made workflow template that does the rest in fully automatic mode. It gathers the necessary approvals, sends notifications, lets you monitor the payment process at any stage and maintains a record for each and every action for future references. Moreover, one can easily alter the business process template with a construction kit to insert additional actions like sending outstanding job reminders or involving other people.

The same approach can be applied to virtually any routine activity such as acquaintance with or approval of a document, requesting a vacation or technical support, implementing specific tasks or reporting.

There are a number of stand-alone BPA suites (like Magic Software’s iBOLT, Automation Anywhere Server and Network Automation’s AutoMate) but only a few BPA-enabled intranets. An illustrative example of business process automation can be found in the Bitrix Intranet Portal. It is much easier and user-friendly than SharePoint as the product comes with a set of pre-installed templates and a construction kit to develop custom processes with simple drag-and-drop actions. A business process can be initiated both for documents and for routine activities, while responsible persons can monitor the progress and receive notifications. No less important is that the feature requires no specialized skills and can be handled by people with just basic experience in computers.

I firmly believe that BPA will become an essential part of SMB-oriented intranet solutions. This is a major technology that allows organizations to put internal interaction under control and synchronize people and departments. As a result, operations become a well-oiled machine with smoother transitions, faster feedback and better-informed decisions.

Denis Zenkin
Denis Zenkin has 15+ years' experience in high-tech marketing. He currently leads global marketing at Bitrix, Inc. – a multi-national developer of Enterprise 2. and website management solutions with a special focus on SMB. Denis is a frequent speaker at industry-specific events covering social-enabled intranet technologies, and regularly publishes articles on E2. adoption practices.


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