Business process management software - being coded in a sophisticated text editor.

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How you select the best business process management (BPM) software

Finding the best business process management software is hard. Most classic tools are too complex for normal companies. Others merely manage tasks. This guide covers 27 requirements to use when finding the right tool for a medium-sized organisation.

In this guide you will learn about the seven key areas to look at when picking BPM software. Each area is divided into requirements that you can use for finding the right tool for you:

7 key selection criteria for BPM software

  1. Easy to implement and use

    User adoption is everything. Period.

  2. Makes the standard way of working easy to understand

    Processes are all about communicating your ways of working. This means both flows and work instructions.

  3. Enables ongoing communications and feedback

    Business processes much change often to reflect learning. For this you need a closed loop of feedback, changes and communications with business users.

  4. Makes processes easier to execute the right way

    Standardized and accesible processes is one thing, actually executing them another. Make sure that you can take the process all the way to execution in the BPM software.

  5. Collects input and data to improve business processes

    Continuous process improvement is critical. This is why you need data from running process – and feedback from users.

  6. Integrates with other systems to automate tasks

    A BPM platform cannot be in island. Over time, you will need to connect it with other business systems.

  7. Ensures solid governance around processes

    Managing hundreds of processes require structure and organization. This means clear roles, process ownerships and delegated rights to manage processes.

Before we dive in let’s first take a look at…

How business process management software can help

Business process management‘ is a big effort to visualise, execute, improve and manage a company’s recurring work across roles, on an ongoing basis and on one single platform.

Organisations buy and deploy process management software to get the tooling they need to succeed with business processes. So what does success look like? It can be to…

  • Standardise an organization’s ways of working
  • Ensure faster employee onboarding (interested in how? read our guide to employee onboarding)
  • Retain knowledge in a system (and not in the minds of individuals)
  • Allow your company to grow and scale faster
  • Improve business processes to reduce waste and errors
  • Digitalize paperwork and automate manual processes to save time
  • Safe guard and document compliance with external standards such as ISO or GDPR

There are hundreds of tools out there. Depending on your own success definition and your current systems the best choice for one company may not be the best for another. This guide will help you to connect what matters to your company with the right tools.

Graph for Time spent on Ad-hoc vs Process work
Example of how a documented business process saves time the more the activity is done.

The 7 key areas to look for in business process management software

The best business process management software solution will allow you to say a clear “yes!” to the criteria that matter to you:

  1. Easy to implement and use for both administrators and end-users
  2. Makes the standard way of working easy to understand
  3. Enables ongoing communications and feedback so everyone is involved
  4. Makes processes easier to execute the right way
  5. Collects input and data to improve business processes
  6. Integrates with other systems to automate tasks
  7. Ensures solid governance around processes.

Now, let’s look at each area and its requirements:

#1 Easy to implement and use

As a start it is important to remember that the tool isn’t the goal. The goal is that your own colleagues will be able to manage processes on a daily basis. To succeed with process management your main objective is therefore to select BPM software that will help business process understanding, use, execution and improvement.

Business Process Management Software helps to simplify your processes

For this reason, we’re not including a number of highly complex development and automation platforms from this analysis. However, this doesn’t mean that they may not be very valuable for other use cases. We list such platforms at the bottom of our article Top 5 BPM software reviewed.

#2 Makes the standard way of working easy to understand

It’s only if the shared, standard way of working is easier than the personal habits that it will actually get done. In practice, this means that you should look for the following features:

  1. Visual process mapping
  2. Process overviews and connections
  3. Organisational roles, job descriptions and processes
  4. Reuse processes and activities across
  5. Work instructions with video, files, links and images
  6. Communicate changes to coworkers in specific roles

Make it easier to work the right way, than the wrong way.

Gluu’s Mission
Man taking shortcut through a park
While the benefits of BPM may be clear to management, the average employee will still take the shortest path when it comes to doing the work. This is why usability is pivotal.

#3 Enables ongoing communications and feedback

This requirement is closely related to the previous one. Chances are that the first time you see a process and perhaps a work instruction a few questions will come to mind. These should be added at the right step in the process and the process owner should be able to answer it immediately. Ideally, this conversation should be transparent to everyone, so questions only need to be asked and answered once. So, look for these features:

    1. Let users comment on any activity and let process editors reply
    2. Create common tags or labels to flag comments for follow up
    3. Hide comments and issues that have already been resolved so they are only visible to editors
    4. Filter comments by time range and label

#4 Makes processes easier to execute the right way

Actually running and executing your processes will ensure that they happen every time. As a result, you need ways to manage recurring tasks and cases. The correct staff need to know when to execute tasks and to log their work. These are the features that will get you there:

  1. Run recurring tasks
  2. Run workflows “on demand” across the roles in a process
  3. Record the person and time when a task is done
  4. Proof that a task is done (e.g. with location and photo)
  5. Monitor if tasks are not done in time
  6. Report on tasks by time, process and case

#5 Collects input and data to improve business processes

Once your processes are mapped and have been revised so many times that they are stable, then the time will come to improve them. In order to gather sufficient data to underpin your decisions, you need to collect organised feedback from colleagues (if processes are executed manually) and system data if processes are automated. These are important features for business process management software:

  1. See the volume of coworkers that have a problem, or request a certain change.
  2. Identify tasks which are not meeting process standards in either time spent or quality.
  3. Get an overview of your worst performing processes.

#6 Integrates with other systems to automate tasks

Once processes are stable, it’s time to automate your processes fully. To achieve this your process management software either needs to complete the full flow inside the platform, or it must be able to integrate with other systems such as ERP or CRM. To do this you need the following features in the process management software solution that you select:

  1. An open, RESTful API that is accessible via a token
  2. Ideally ready integrations to integration platforms such as Zapier that let you integrate with thousands of apps
  3. An integration with Microsoft Graph if you’re using Office 365
  4. An integration with G Suite if you’re using this as your company platform

#7 Ensures solid governance around processes

You must be able to manage your process collection, or process hierarchy, from a central place while still being able to delegate the management of specific processes to the people that know. At the same time, each process owner must have access to all the tools and information that he – and his editor team – need to manage the process effectively. This requires granular rights management:

  1. Firstly, Automatic change tracking: Changes in processes, work instructions and editors.
  2. Manage Rights by Process: Assign separate owners and editors to each process.
  3. Lastly, Manage Rights by Feature: Allow separate users to manage hierarchy, roles and users.

Next step: The vendor evaluation

These were the 27 requirements that we have identified as being important for many business process management software buyers. However, we suggest you also add your own requirements to the list.

Next, it’s time to start evaluating business process management software. We’ve started with our own evaluation: Top 5 business process management software for medium-sized businesses.