Business process management (BPM) is defined by Gartner as:
“A discipline that uses various tools and methods to design, model, execute, monitor, and optimize business processes.”
BPM can be instrumental in business transformation by coordinating all kinds of business processes including people, systems, and information in order to promote better strategic business outcomes.
Unfortunately for many growing businesses, BPM can often feel like a burden.
They might find themselves tempted to ignore it, or put it off until things are ‘stable’. However, having optimized processes and procedures in place is the foundation for scalable success – they’re vital to making growth as pain-free as possible.
Even more established businesses experience challenges with certain aspects of their business, such as onboarding, hiring, or sales, particularly when process crosses departments. While they might want to review processes and procedures, taking an enterprise approach to BPM can be expensive and time-consuming, without achieving the results that small and mid-size businesses need in order to remain competitive.
Luckily, there are ways to improve process management for growing businesses too. The key is to create a solid foundation for a systemised business that can also deal with change. This foundation comes in the form of digital documentation. By documenting your key processes, you can manage them more effectively – and take steps to improve them. These steps may be manual to start with, but over time you can make use of automated procedures, using your documentation as guidelines. Using business process automation for routine transactions and interactions, offers a cost-effective way to win back productive time and increase efficiency.
To help improve business process management, organizations can make use of business process management notation (BPMN)–visualizations of processes—and hosted or on-premises BMP tools or software solutions.
What is process management software?
It’s also worth noting that it can be necessary in heavily regulated industries, such as finance or healthcare, in order to remain compliant.
All types of business processes can be grouped, analyzed, and improved, including:
- Employee onboarding
- Expense reporting
- Vacation requests
- Account management
- Time tracking
- Loan origination
- Project management
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
Business process management systems (BPMS) tend to focus on longer term analysis that’s carried out on a regular basis, rather than one-off events, such as launches of a new app or product. The best business process management software includes workflow and task management options, meaning that you can keep an eye on activity as it compares to the intended process.
What does a process management system do?
There are several kinds of BPM suites that can be categorized by their purpose in an organization. These are:
- System-centric BPM, which handles processes that rely on legacy systems. For example, a CRM without much human involvement. If implemented correctly, system-centric process management software is highly integratable with API access able to create fast and efficient business processes. One example is online banking, which may include various software systems in combination.
- Human-centric business process management suites support processes that are carried out by people. This software involves processes that need access control for approvals and tasks carried out by employees. An example of this type of software could include customer service, complaint management, onboarding new employees, etc.
These both have different advantages and disadvantages. With system-centric BPM you may find that focusing on systems rather than employee workflow doesn’t help your team – it doesn’t provide them information on how to improve, or show how process should work across different systems and departments. With human-centric BPM, the opposite can happen. While it’s a great way to improve individual and team workflows, without tracking activities related to processes or integration with existing applications, you won’t see the full benefit.
What are the benefits of a business process management system?
As a business grows it becomes impossible to personally oversee everything. You can’t be constantly putting out fires, so you need to be sure your team can handle the business processes in the same way you would. This means you need to implement standardized processes across business workflows.
1. Risk reduction
A BPM tool provides visibility into business processes, making it easier to spot errors. This gives organizations a way to work more efficiently and save money. It also enables processes to work at a consistently high level so they’re executed right the first time, every time.
2. Better control of operations
No matter how good your business processes, you need to have a 360 degree view of who’s running what and where. With process management software you can access all this information in real time via an API dashboard – along with charts to help monitor progress and performance.
3. Improved collaboration
When you’re running a lot of tasks at the same time, good collaboration is essential. Collaboration tools including messages, file sharing systems, and notifications can make communication easier and ensure everyone is on the same page in real time. This helps to reduce data redundancy and fix business issues quickly.
4. Agility via automation
A key feature of business process management software is the ability to create smooth design processes so that changes can be made rapidly and easily to suit the needs of an organization.
5. Increased productivity
A process management solution can measure process performance when integrated with your business processes data storage systems. Then you can quickly see and identify endpoints that need improvement and maximize revenues. By getting rid of bottlenecks you can eliminate redundant processes and make improvements that will increase performance.
How to successfully implement process management software in your business
It’s a good first step to be aware you need to streamline your business processes, but actually putting it into practice can be tricky. It’s not enough to simply have processes in place, they must be properly implemented.
Creating a process shouldn’t be static, or about presenting others with rigid documentation that doesn’t have their input. This won’t deliver the consistency and efficiency benefits that process management should be delivering.
To achieve optimum efficiency in processes, you need to integrate them with workflows and make process creation a team effort. Teams should be able to contribute and potentially own process. Here are a few ways to help you get things right – from the start.
1. Take an objective approach
If you want to implement robust processes, you need to step back and look at the big picture. It’s often difficult to see the things that made your business a success if you’re too involved. You need to hand over daily tasks to junior staff, and this won’t work if you store everything in your head. Ask yourself how you can remove yourself from every aspect of running your business.
If you deal with clients, how can that service be replicated? While you may be used to managing clients in a specific way, what’s obvious to you may not be obvious to other team members. You need to work out how to break things down into repeatable optimized processes.
2. Be flexible
Don’t set business rules in stone or try to get others to do everything the way you do yourself. If your processes are too rigid you could create an inflexibility in the company that means you can’t respond to changes. Allow some leeway, and remember that people should be given the responsibility to make sensible decisions and modify changes if necessary.
As they carry out tasks, employees will begin to develop insights into the processes from close up, and they are therefore capable of identifying if and how processes could be improved.
3. Empower don’t control
Process should be seen as a way to empower rather than control your team. It’s important that everyone is onboard with the processes from the start, and understand how they will interact with them. Processes shouldn’t be looked at as a series of boxes to be ticked, but tools your employees need and appreciate, and that are in place so they can do their jobs better.
You need to determine which tasks can be automated via which systems – and what your team needs information-wise to be able to implement them.
Must-have features of process management software
When you’re searching for process management software, make sure it has the following capabilities:
- Be user-friendly with an intuitive user interface that allows you to utilize its functionalities code free. Then you can create processes and forms, as well as capture insightful information on how each process flows, so team members are on the same page.
- Seamless integration with a variety of different tools to ensure good project management and that employees can share data and resources easily and efficiently.
- Real-time analytics, to understand which processes are being used, and how successful they are. A BPM platform should be able to track both the success and failure of processes via metrics, and allow you to create visualizations, such as gantt charts, along with the ability to take steps to facilitate improvements and ensure compliance.
- Be capable of process mapping with visual workflows and allow you to create an audit trail of any changes to process and workflows to support compliance.
- Embrace mobile optimization so that team members can create their own working environment and access the software remotely from a smartphone.
- Offer relevant process templates, but also give you the ability for customization so that processes are built around your company and its requirements.
Top 10 process management software solutions
1. beSlick for ease of use and features
The beSlick team have worked hard to build a simple interface that users can benefit from immediately. The process workflow builder and process reports are both powerful and visually appealing – making it easier for users to learn. You can also create process as flowcharts, which is exceptional at this price point.
It also has unique capabilities around process improvement, feedback, and analytics, in order to help identify where changes need to be made.
In a growing business many employees aren’t clear about their company’s processes, leading to errors and team/management misalignment. beSlick can help systemise your business in a way employees can engage with, solving this problem and drives visibility and consistency.
- Simple to use, and quick to get started
- An affordable solution with powerful features
- Handholding throughout to help new users
- You may have to build your own processes (but they have a library to get you started, and a services team that can help)
2. Zoho Creator
Zoho Creator is low code, and great if you’re already using other Zoho products. It offers you a way to customize your business by creating customized applications. Users can make use of more than 50 industry-specific templates, though it can be expensive to access the more powerful features.
- Easy to build basic forms
- Good for basic apps
- Offers a 15-day free trial.
- Can be challenging to integrate with non-Zoho products
- Reporting can be limited
- Tutorials and support need improvement
- More for basic app building than business process management.
3. Process Street
Process Street is a good process management solution for smaller businesses. You can create recurring tasks and checklists, as well as automated workflows intuitively via a drag and drop interface. However, it can be hard for first time users to understand the interface, and, while it can be used to create more advanced workflows, it can be difficult to visualise them.
- Strong form building capabilities, that can have dependencies on process flow
- Large number of templates
- No process flowchart view
- Pre-built templates are of varying quality
- Reports don’t always show detail well
- Many useful features are more expensive
Pipefy is a very flexible low-code platform that’s trusted by a host of enterprise level companies from Warner Brothers to Volvo. Pipefy combines organization, automation, and communication tools into one. It focuses on approval flows and request management, as well as having a strong form builder. While it does provide a free tier with limited features, it can be expensive to unlock the more advanced elements.
- Good for approval flows
- Has a Kanban view
- Easy to create custom processes from scratch
- Had pre-built plugin templates
- Has a steep learning curve
- Can quickly become expensive.
Kissflow offers a variety of tools, and one of them is business process management software. It comes with customizable forms, a drag and drop workflow builder, and advanced user controls, as well as full reports and analytics.
- Clean interface
- Supports form capture
- Includes an API if you have a development team
- Can be challenging for new users
- Expensive compared to similar tools
- Platform can be quite slow.
Kincode is a no-code application building platform, but can also accommodate process. It supports API integration, as well as offering basic database functionality. Good for nonprofit organizations, Kintone is trusted by a host of charities including the Alzheimer’s Association and LiveWell Colorado.
- From finance and fundraising, to automating recurring tasks, the software helps to manage contact information, donor outreach activities, and other programs.
- It can be hard for new users to get to grips with the system
- Can get expensive quickly (although there are discounts for not-for-profit business users)
- It can require a lot of effort to initially build things.
- Lack the ability to export apps as a mobile app and add branding to it.
iGrafx might be up your street if you’re an enterprise organization looking to bring your visions to operational reality.
With iGrafx, users can digitally transform essential processes and optimize the buyer experience.
- The software enables businesses to systemize risk and compliance, and improve the quality of information processes.
- They have tools to help with journey mapping and performance management.
- Initial configuration of journeys can be overwhelming
- Depending on the size of your business, it can be quite expensive
8. Studio Creatio for workflow automation
Formerly BPM online, Creatio is designed to help you develop no-code applications. It’s great for converting existing processes into applications with automation where possible.
- With drag and drop features, the software lets you build user dashboards, set up algorithms, and automate workflows.
- The free plan comes with an impressive array of features for process creation.
- It doesn’t handle workflows associated with process, unless you make use of integrations
- The enterprise version can be pricey
- The interface can be challenging.
Monday.com is a powerful project management tool that helps businesses plan, execute, and implement business processes in a visual collaborative space.
- It frees teams from repetitive tasks and ensures workflows and handovers run smoothly.
- Dashboards enable users to keep a clear overview of projects and track efficiencies and costs.
- In order to get the initial configuration right, you may need to import it
- Multiple amendments can be hard to work with
- Struggles with repeatable processes, tasks and scheduling
- It’s not well suited to creating a process library
- Difficult to manage tasks in a single view
- While good for business-wide task management, it struggles at a personal level.
Proworkflow allows you to spend less time mentally managing projects and more time making processes a reality. The software enables users to assign staff, reschedule tasks, and track time, as well as quote and invoice at scale.
- The initial plan is free and includes templates you can create in seconds.
- Custom reporting tools and tailored workflows are provided to match your business and brand.
- More focused on project management than repeatable processes
- Advanced features can be expensive.
How to choose a BPM software option
If you’ve decided you need a business process management solution, but don’t know where to start, here are some pointers on finding the best BPM for you.
1. Involve the team in BPM adoption
If your employees aren’t ‘sold’ on a piece of software, they won’t use it. So why bother implementing it in the first place? It’s essential to communicate to everyone in the company all information about the proposed BPM tool that’s been selected.
Tell the team what makes it the best business process management tool out there. How does it solve problems for your business? And how will it be used effectively in your specific work environment? It could be an idea to create some internal documents to teach team members how to use the new system.
2. Pay attention to details
When you’re searching for the best process management system, make sure you check it has the features and capabilities you require. Dig down to the specifics, and examine the design and layout.
Check that the BPM system has an intuitive interface, so that it will be easy to train new users. Look out for features that make the system stand out.
3. Decide on ‘must have’ features
Discuss with teams what you really want your business process management system to do. Do you want a system that manages employee onboarding? Or one that can integrate with your workflow management software? Create a wishlist and stick to it. Factor in pricing here too – for instance, document management might be a nice perk, but is it worth extra expense?
4. Make a list of pros and cons
This can help to identify the best business process management system for those who need a visual aid or think out loud. List-making is an effective way to reach a good decision. If you have a top five or ten BPM solutions, make two columns, and list how the system fits your business needs and what is missing.
5. Get advice on finding the best process management system
When you’re trying to find a new software system, you’ll no doubt have questions or concerns. So if you have an issue with a particular feature, get in touch with the BPM provider and make a suggestion. They’ll want their software to work well for you and may be able to accommodate your request.
Final words: when to automate your processes
In the world of digital transformation, everything is changing fast, so there’s no room for delays. With competition so strong, more and more companies are turning to business process management software to help them optimize their important business processes.
A BPM system can help you eliminate inefficiencies, with the ability to automate repetitive processes such as client information gathering. BPM software can offer robotic process automation (RPA) to do this. However, we’d recommend ensuring your processes work well manually before you do this – poorly structured automated processes are likely to make things worse!
Good business process management software will also ensure that all employees and stakeholders can stay up to date with the latest changes, and ensure all processes meet the relevant standards, both internally and externally.
Standardization can help with onboarding, boost productivity, and improve business processes for the future. Once you’ve incorporated the best BPM system for your business, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it!