Free (Yes, F-R-E-E) Business Automation

By Lauren Simonds | Posted July 06, 2005

We don't know how you feel about it, but "free" is our favorite word. Especially when it relates to products or services that make a small business owner's workday easier. Who's with us? So when we heard that Nsite — a company specializing in on-demand, automated processes that are typically managed through e-mail and spreadsheets — is offering up a service featuring five processes at no cost, well, we had to get the 411.

Of course, "free" isn't so great if it's followed by a line of asterisks indicating "lite" versions, time limits and other qualifiers that only serve to show you how rare "free" actually is. But Nsite Starter Edition is exactly what it claims to be: a suite of five fully functional, fully automated HR and spend-management processes for up to 100 users.

You're waiting for the catch, aren't you? While there is no catch, there is an explanation. According to Rosie Hausler, Nsite vice-president of marketing, the company sees this as a good way to introduce more people to the company, what it does and how small businesses can benefit from automated processes.

"We feel good about our service," Hausler said. "If we get people using it, light bulbs go off and they think of other processes they can automate." With refreshing candor, she added, "We hope to drive new sales and up sell our current customers by increasing the number of users through customization, integration or new applications."

What's An Automated Process?
Niste Starter Edition is a hosted, Web-based service that lets you automate travel authorization, employee status changes, information service requests, requests for employee time off and employee time off reports.

You access the service through any Web browser. Hausler said it's a simple matter of signing up for the service on the Web site and then logging in when you need to use the service.


Nsite's Starter Edition travel authorization form
Click here for a larger image.

You set up an electronic routing path for each process — listing all the people who need to sign off on the electronic document. You pick the names from a drop down list of your registered employees or even outside vendors, partners or customers (the 100-user limit refers only to actual employees, so you can add as many outside contacts as you need). It's a one-time set up — once that's done, the system automatically routes the document.

Hausler pointed out that by automating business processes, small businesses stand to improve their efficiency and boost the bottom line. "An automated process provides visibility that's sorely lacking in manual processes. It lets you, track, report and control costs much more efficiently."

Fall Products
Nsite plans to announce new products this fall, and although she couldn't go into the specifics, Hausler indicated the general direction the company intends to go. "We're moving toward the self-service area," she said. "The new products will let our customers customize or even build their own automated processing applications."

While that sounds daunting, especially coming from a company that hosts easy-to-use Web-based services, Hausler said Nsite not abandoning ease-of-use. "It's not as hard as it sounds," she said. It will all be based on drag-and-drop technology."

The good news for small business owners is that even when the new products arrive, Nite Starter Edition will remain as free as ever. What a concept.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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