BPM and RPA: Two Emerging Tech Tools to Boost Small Business Success

These management and automation tools enable SMBs to target and topple large incumbents.

The larger the company, the more stubborn it is. If old business models and processes are still generating sufficient profits, then the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” syndrome reigns. So for big companies, transformation is often a long-term strategy — or, truth be told, an aspiration.

Small businesses are in a unique position. While they face daunting challenges on funding, customer acquisition, fulfillment, scale and more, they are also free from overwhelming transformation killers, such as the constraining culture of large bureaucracies and the need to avoid the cannibalization of profitable business models. Small businesses are also agile by design, size and attitude, especially when they’re young.

Examples abound of small businesses successfully ­targeting incumbents’ processes and transforming whole ­business models. Uber changed transportation processes. Airbnb changed lodging. They all started out as small businesses taking on entrenched incumbents in old industries.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Learn how robotic process automation is already changing the financial services industry, and what it means for others.

Disruptive Tech Speeds Small Business Transformation

Just as the companies above did, any small business can deploy two sets of tools to ­disrupt entire industries: ­business ­process modeling and robotic process automation. As explained by TechTarget, BPM is “the discipline of improving a business process from end to end by analyzing it, modeling how it works in different scenarios, executing improvements, monitoring the improved process and continually optimizing it.”

Many cloud-based BPM software tools exist to enable modeling and simulation, from the likes of Oracle, SAP and others, and small businesses focused on disruption, growth and profitability can deploy these tools to map the processes of incumbent competitors, entering competitive marketplaces with a deep understanding of the vulnerability of the incumbents they want to attack.

Stephen J. Andriole
Small businesses are agile by design, size and attitude, especially when they’re young."

Stephen J. Andriole Thomas G. Labrecque Professor of Business Technology, Villanova School of Business in Philadelphia

If BPM is the engine of disruption targeting, RPA is the destination. BPM explains, predicts and prescribes business processes. RPA implements explanations, predictions and especially prescriptions. Automated software robots do the work.

Automation Tools Free Up Staff for Innovation

As Leslie Willcocks put it in an interview with McKinsey, “RPA takes the robot out of the human. The average knowledge worker employed on a back-office process has a lot of repetitive, routine tasks that are dreary and uninteresting. RPA is a type of software that mimics the activity of a human being in carrying out a task within a process. It can do repetitive stuff more quickly, accurately and ­tirelessly than humans, freeing them to do other tasks requiring human strengths such as emotional intelligence, reasoning, ­judgment and interaction with the customer.”

Software here refers broadly to a suite of solutions that small businesses can apply to stubborn business processes and whole business models. Available from providers including CA Technologies and others, RPA leverages process control, analytics and artificial intelligence, among other technologies.

BPM and RPA Prove Weapons for Small Business Success

Once a business has used a BPM tool to model and improve business processes, it can deploy RPA software tools to automate the improved processes, and then take the applications to the market to compete with incumbents.

BPM and RPA are vital weapons for small businesses. BPM widens and deepens the understanding of business processes, fueling the creation of disruptive models. RPA translates these models into software solutions that can disrupt entire industries. Together, they are core competencies for small businesses, especially those focused on improving and disrupting the business processes of large incumbents that find change challenging on so many levels, for so many reasons.

BPM and RPA define small business agility. SMBs can fire these weapons directly at large incumbents with great effect and can use them to modify and disrupt small businesses processes and models for competitive gain.

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Worawee Meepian/Getty Images
Nov 13 2018

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