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Businesses looking to streamline their operations often find themselves researching business process management (BPM). For the last 50 or so years, only enterprise management consultants, solution architects, business analysts, and other highly skilled, highly trained individuals have attempted BPM as a discipline. But today, the best business process management software makes this somewhat arcane discipline more accessible to every business, not just large enterprises with deep pockets.
Business process management is also known as workflow management. In modern business, both of these disciplines rely on automation to streamline and standardize business processes. The hoped-for result is a repeatable, automated process with measurable metrics so the business can improve the process.
As Jason Bloomberg points out in his January, 2019 Forbes article “Whatever Happened to Business Process Management Software?” the BPM software space has fragmented across robotic process automation (RPA), mobile BPM software, and low-code app development tools. This fragmentation indicates that companies have come to expect automated processes and easier workflows across their tools.
BPM helps you conceptualize your organization’s workflows, mapping out each potential path that deliverables take in your web of people and processes. A workflow helps companies more effectively identify areas to automate, steps to eliminate or streamline, and ways to increase efficiency and productivity. According to research by Mordor Intelligence, the BPM software market grew to $3.18 billion in 2018, and is expected to grow at a rate of over 6 percent per year through 2024. They attribute this growth to the increased automation of processes throughout companies of all sizes.
Business process management software helps businesses quickly and easily map out their workflows in an electronic environment—they get the benefit of actually seeing the big picture of their processes in an environment where they can model changing business scenarios. Furthermore, many business process management software suites can enable the integration of business processes and applications from across the company, acting as the engine block to the component parts of CRM, ERP, Accounting, and others.
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What is Business Process Management software?
Business process management software helps businesses map their workflows, automate key processes, and otherwise streamline their operations. It is a term used for software systems that model, map, and/or automate most or all of a business function or process.
Business process management software overlaps with other software verticals including project management software, professional services automation tools, salesforce automation systems, and others. For example, a project-based business that uses a popular solution like Wrike, Mavenlink, or LiquidPlanner can use their project management software to map out their entire workflow, building visualizations for various key processes and making progress and problems more visible to the entire team. While BPM professionals will draw a distinction between a project and a process, companies can use some types of project management software to design repeatable projects.
Common features of BPM software
Though features can vary depending upon whether you’re using a generic BPM suite or one tailored to your particular industry, companies performing a business process management software comparison should look for systems with these features:
- Document Management / Sharing: At the heart of many leading BPM solutions is a document management system, though we see these features less often as cloud storage vendors such as Box or Dropbox increasingly integrate with popular business software, including BPM suites.
- Email Integration: Though chat systems and social collaboration tools make email less critical to internal communications, companies still use email for contacting suppliers, partners, or clients, making it an important part of most BPM suites.
- Billing / Invoicing: The only thing more important than your business completing their contracted work is collecting payment for that work. Many BPM systems offer a built-in billing and invoicing system. These tools don’t replace your accounting software but function as the natural endpoint of your revenue-generating business processes.
- Visual Workflow Map: A drag-and-drop workflow editor lets managers construct and visualize their workflows in an electronic environment that allows quick and easy conceptualization and modification.
Other considerations when choosing a business process management solution
Beyond features and functionalities, you should also consider these options before making a BPM software selection:
- Cloud vs. on-premise: Though cloud-based systems are growing in popularity as server space becomes commoditized, many companies still prefer a traditional on-premise server to host their own BPM solution. While most BPM vendors offer solutions for both delivery models, making your decision before beginning the search process will help you narrow the field.
- Mobility: Anytime access to your business process management suite is essential to today’s increasingly mobile workforce. Though cloud-based systems provide mobile access by design, it’s important to verify that the website or mobile application is optimized for viewing on tablets and/or smartphones. This is particularly important for firms with outside sales agents, field maintenance technicians, or other mobile workers that need access to the BPM suite.
- Generic or industry-specific: While many BPM software products work for a variety of industries, businesses, or departments, many companies decide they’d prefer a system that’s tailored to meet the specific needs of their industry. BQE Core, a BPM suite for architects, is one example of an industry-specific BPM tool.
- Turn-key or custom: While the nature of most BPM software means that each business can design their own workflows and integrations, some companies prefer a completely custom-built system, usually out of a desire to include functionality not normally part of a BPM suite.
Custom software engineering services can design a BPM tool with all your required functions, or TechnologyAdvice can help you choose a turn-key business process management software tool that meets your needs. Just fill out the form at the top of the page.
Creating executive buy-in
Additional expenditures on software systems can be difficult to sell in today’s business environment. Your organization likely already uses a number of systems that perform some of the same functions that a new BPM suite would fulfill, making it even more difficult to justify further outlays on software that will only have an indirect impact on bottom-line profitability.
You may have executives that will simply hear “new software” and immediately deny the purchase. It may take a team to sell your team on a BPM solution. As the individual researching your options, it will likely fall to you to assemble your allies; the following tailored talking points will help you convince the members of your C-suite of the importance of BPM software and the positive impact it can have on your business.
Your Chief Executive Officer is a natural ally for your BPM software purchase. As the individual at your organization tasked with seeing the big picture, it shouldn’t be too difficult to explain why a BPM suite will increase efficiency and enable true transparency between individuals, teams, or departments.
The transformative capabilities of well-designed and deployed BPM software will enable your business to reinvent itself — shifting away from short-lived, transactional processes towards sustainable, repeatable actions that drive continued growth in a difficult, increasingly competitive global marketplace.
When meeting with your CEO, make sure to focus on the at-a-glance monitoring of processes that a BPM suite can provide: the relatively low total cost of ownership when compared to other enterprise software solutions and examples of BPM software implementation at companies similar to yours.
Besides your CEO, your Chief Information Officer is the most important person you’ll need to convince of a BPM suite’s necessity. Depending on how up-to-date they are on trends in enterprise systems, they may not realize that modern BPM suites use predictive analytics, human intelligence, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensor connections to provide far more comprehensive capabilities than similar systems from just a few short years ago.
Make sure to mention the flexibility in deployments, the wide variety of available software integrations and the redundant systems your BPM suite can replace—usually for far less money.
Choosing the Best Business Process Management Software
The capabilities of modern business process management software are seemingly endless — just like the number of BPM software vendors. Deciding on the best BPM system for your business can be confusing, frustrating, and difficult — but it needn’t be.
At TechnologyAdvice, we specialize in connecting technology buyers with the solutions that best meet their unique requirements. We’ve assembled thousands of software reviews, vendor comparisons, white papers, buyers’ guides, feature lists, and other resources to help in your decision-making process.
If you’re curious about any of the business process management systems mentioned in this guide, we’d love to talk to you. Call one of our product experts for a free consultation, or fill out the form at the top of the page to get a personalized list of recommendations based on your industry and desired features.
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