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Avoid Guesswork: Six Tips for Choosing Process Management Software
The role of business process management suites has become increasingly central to organizational decision-making. Ideally, these software tools have the capability to speed up the action-to-outcome cycle and improve management’s ability to plan for disruption and change. That may seem like a tall order if you are simply looking to business process management (BPM) software to streamline an internal system. No matter what your immediate needs, however, it makes sense to pick a solution with enough flexibility to evolve alongside your organization.
The problem is, how do we make the right selection? There’s a dauntingly large number of new, mature, standalone or integrated offerings on the market. All share the common goals of helping businesses automate, measure and improve their overall process management – even if the features and implementation differ widely. So how can you judge which BPM software suite will be the right fit for you?
Larger organizations can certainly narrow down their choice by looking at industry analyst research such as the IDC Marketscape, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant or the Forrester Wave, although the reports make for complex reading, and the vendors covered typically don’t focus on the needs of smaller organizations. Product reviews are another potential source of data, but unless you are clear about what will suit your organization it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees.
Here are six guidelines to help you narrow down your own selection criteria for business process management software.
1. Know your processes
It sounds blindingly obvious, but it’s easy to be caught up in trying to fix an obviously broken process (e.g. customer service) and overlook others (facilities management or employee onboarding) that could add value to the organization with more streamlined processes. Look at the future, beyond your most urgent needs.
2. Don’t Forget the Basics
How does your company work and what areas are most critical to its success? Web-based platforms are great for collaboration and for mobile deployments, but desktop software may be a more reliable option if Internet access is spotty, while the security of a behind-the-firewall solution might trump convenience for organizations handling sensitive information. Additionally, some software is only built for a handful of users where other options support hundreds. If you’re functioning internationally, you might need software with multi-lingual and foreign currency features.
3. Technical Compatibility
What does your existing technology infrastructure look like? Are there any quirks or special requirements that need to be accommodated? Proactively seeking technological alignment and the closest level of compatibility with your potential BPM software choice can help streamline the deployment process, maximize your return on investment and smooth overall integration of the solution into everyday business management. Think twice before deciding on a system that involves major customization efforts: the longer and more complex the pre-deployment customization process, the longer you’ll need to wait for meaningful results – and the more tightly you are locked into that solution.
4. IT Knowledge and System Usability
Ensuring your BPM software matches the skill level of your team members is important to ensuring efficient and effective workflow. Choosing an intuitive interface with simplified usability may be the route for your organization if your IT resources are limited or your team’s skills don’t include BPM technology. However, if your organization has a highly technical IT staff and available resources, a more intricate BPM software choice can deliver higher value.
5. Project Progress Status
Knowing the current state of all aspects of every project at any time makes a huge difference to team members, management and clients. It’s a transparency that helps ensure confidence and instill trust, and is especially helpful when multiple team members are dealing with high volumes of issues or trouble tickets. The ability to view project status and create work-in-progress reports is an important element of your BPM software.
6. Automation and Collaboration
Lack of access to information can derail productive progress in seconds, and the ‘Fred’s out-of-office’ excuse is just about as acceptable as ‘the dog ate my homework’ when it comes to customer complaints or sales enquiries . Ensure that your solution allows authorized access to relevant individuals so that they can retrieve information and receive instant updates the second an estimate, conversation or piece of data is entered into the system.
7. What Does Success Look Like?
If you have a plan for how to measure success, you can make better software choices. Ideally, you will want analytics capabilities that help quantify results, track metrics such as time saved or better response times, and provide you and your IT team with tools to make ongoing recommendations for organizational improvement. For example, if you see an excess of trouble tickets on Microsoft Outlook, you might be able to adjust user training to eliminate this type of query; or an area of best practice in one part of the organization might be translatable to other areas. Actionable analytics are a powerful management tool.