Last week we saw that business automation, aka business process automation (BPA), is key to driving the digital transformation of any business, no matter the size. There was a time when automation was synonymous with advanced manufacturing plants and robots. Today we see a completely different picture with automation firmly rooted in the workplace, and also having a home in many of the software applications we use. Put simply, business automation involves setting up a system to perform repetitive and easily replicated tasks without relying on human involvement. Too much repetition can adversely impact your bottom line, especially if you are an SME. Fred Townes, CPO at READY Education, tells us:


“For small businesses, the most important thing is repetition. When you find something you do more than once that adds value … you want to look into automation.”


In the old days, automation needed costly servers and experts to maintain them – out of reach for most SMEs. But thanks to cloud-based platforms, even the smallest companies can now get their hands on automation tools. Let’s take a gander at some of the popular software platforms and business automation apps that SMEs see as their one-stop shop for BPA.




Zoho Creator is a low-code application development platform that helps you design, develop and run any business software you need. It followed hot on the heels of the release of Zoho CRM in 2005, along with the release of Zoho Projects, Sheet, and Show. As of today, more than 14,000 companies have created 7 million apps using Zoho Creator and the platform, used by the likes of Amazon and Marriot, has 6 million users. James Hirst, VP of Development at ITV Studios, has these words of praise for Zoho Creator:


“Prior to using Zoho Creator, we had data everywhere and multiple potential points of failure…The platform is now a one-stop-shop for all the information you need.”


Zoho Creator empowers businesses to collect data, automate processes and workflows, analyse insights through reports, facilitate user collaboration, and integrate with external apps. Each auto-scalable application developed on Zoho Creator is accompanied by a native iOS and Android app, meaning that users can access up-to-the-minute data from any location, at any time. Zoho Creator Professional costs £16 per user per month excluding VAT.




Since its birth in 2006, Zoho Creator has been the go-to choice for app development. However, several other workflow and automation apps have also taken centre stage. Of these, Microsoft Power Apps is probably the best-known Zoho Creator alternative. Officially launched in 2016, the cloud-hosted platform is ideal for businesses that are already committed to the Microsoft ecosystem and can easily integrate with other Microsoft products. The tech giant claims that users of Power Apps can expect a 45% decrease in app development costs and a 140% ROI over three years. Taylor Norris, the

CEO of Custom Air Products and Services, explains some of the benefits of Power Apps:


“Discovering new ways to put accurate, timely, and relevant data in the hands of our employees is transforming our business.”


Microsoft Power Apps costs £16.40 per user per month, although there is a free Copilot-powered developer trial available.




For those in search of a fine alternative to Zoho Creator, one possibility is FuseBase, formerly Nimbus launched in 2014. With an array of powerful internal tools, FuseBase can significantly enhance your business development. Like Zoho Creator, FuseBase offers a user-friendly low-code environment, allowing individuals to craft customised applications without coding experience. As a highly adaptable and customisable digital workspace, the platform lets you develop one-of-a-kind solutions tailored to your specific needs, complementing your desire to generate original content. Like Creator and Power Apps, FuseBase also offers integration capabilities that accelerate the creative process, streamlining projects and boosting productivity. Whether linking to data sources, content repositories, or other tools, these integration options empower you to achieve more in less time. Aritra Ghosh, an analyst at Amazon, says:


“FuseBase has made our work a lot easier. Dashboards offer some great services like account management, integrated cloud storage options, collaborative workspace for the team and many more.”


There’s one catch, though. FuseBase has a significant price tag. The recommended plan for SMEs is $12 per user per month. If you want to throw client portal integration and AI into the mix, that’ll add $28 to the monthly bill. FuseBase also has a free, branded version available. Although it’s ‘free forever, it is limited to one portal and one workspace.




As a Zoho Creator competitor, the QuickBase no-code platform offers great flexibility, allowing software engineers to effortlessly handle even the most complex projects by assigning tasks, automating workflows, and generating actionable reports.


Users can lever AI to create, easily integrate, and manage extensive projects and enterprise-grade applications that make a significant impact on society while addressing technical debt challenges. Whether you’re overseeing the construction of a skyscraper or coordinating the distribution of a new vaccine, this no-code software platform is an enabler, allowing users to customise solutions to their specific requirements by integrating data from multiple sources. Designed for a diverse audience including business problem solvers, IT specialists, and real estate leaders, QuickBase caters to individuals who want to facilitate collaboration, problem-solving and innovation. It serves as the ideal project management platform for those striving to empower every member of their company to address challenges and foster new ideas. Being somewhat more specialised than its counterparts, QuickBase for SMEs doesn’t come cheap. The Team plan starts at $35 per user person and depending on your needs, add-ons will incur additional monthly charges. QuickBase also comes with a 30-day free trial.




SMEs may also want to consider Airtable as a viable alternative to Creator. Founded in San Francisco in 2012, the platform lets users use AI to transform and integrate workflows, create scalable and flexible databases, and create or customise apps. Airtable’s interface resembles that of a traditional spreadsheet, but its capabilities surpass those of a typical spreadsheet software. Teams can utilise various building blocks to represent their work, including custom forms, establish relationships between different elements, and design views tailored to their specific tasks. Pricewise? Airtable’s Team plan costs $24 per user per month, scaling to $45 for advanced features and basic administration.




If you are looking for affordable, intelligent and effective solutions to automate and digitally transform your business, you’re knocking on the right door. I have over 25 years of experience supporting SMEs with their IT in every possible realm, including workflow automation. Let’s get together soon and see how easy it’ll be to get your automation up to speed. Reach out today and look forward to enhanced productivity and efficiency. At the same time, you’ll be keeping all your precious clients happy.

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