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BPM Tools and Software: The Ins and Outs

When it comes to business process management (BPM) tools, there’s a lot of possibilities for for customization and variety. For instance, even though the software is process-centric, it can mean different things to different industries and audiences. It’s common for businesses with identical goals to take on completely different modes of implementation.opti

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Unsurprisingly, this can make BPM tools a rather tricky thing to handle. In the simplest terms, business process management represents a systematic approach to business activities and practices. It’s a way to capture, monitor and further understand the people, technology, operations and decisions made on a day-to-day basis.

When skilfully employed, BPM tools support the integration of information and human resources, with a particular focus on how each is managed. The objective is to help the business reach its targets and, where possible, exceed its KPIs. This is achieved by observing, acknowledging, optimizing and implementing valuable business processes.

Understanding Why BPM Is Important

The overarching goal of any BPM platform is to support the implementation of productive, automated business processes. This is necessary for efficient spending, sustainable consumption and company cohesion. From a general perspective, there are three stages involved in this journey.

The first stage involves making sure that there’s a full understanding of existing processes. You can’t think about improving internal practices until you’ve got a clear picture of their weaknesses. This stage is very important, despite a tendency to rush or gloss over it. The second stage is when targeted process improvements are made, with the goal of optimizing and streamlining business processes. The final stage is evaluating performance.

Industry experts see BPM tools as serving two emerging functions in contemporary businesses. They can be used to develop and evolve the customer experience, as well as provide support in the face of increasingly stringent corporate regulations. As laws, standard practices and even corporate morals change, BPM software provides a way to adapt quickly.

The Benefits of BPM Tools

The benefits of BPM tools are numerous, particularly when software is combined with complementary tools and systems. For instance, targeted workflows and dashboards can expand the scope of business process management and increase optimization. Of these advantages, three are commonly discussed:

Adaptability

It’s vital, particularly in a world of rapidly evolving tech, that businesses are able to adapt quickly. BPM tools capture and record substantial amounts of data about targeted processes. This results in complete workflow histories, which makes it much easier to isolate specific processes, identify weaknesses and determine viable solutions.  

Transparency

BPM tools also help businesses get a clearer window on internal processes. When practices and activities are automated, the need for close contact monitoring is reduced. The business enjoys greater transparency, without having to increase workloads. The result of this is improved decision making and increased productivity.

Reduced Waste

If you can use BPM software to improve weak processes, you can also use it to eliminate redundant ones. With greater transparency and control, it’s possible to highlight and remove sluggish and irrelevant tasks. After incorporating business process management, you’ll find areas where automation overlaps with manual jobs, so you can eradicate some of the latter.

The Choice between Humans and Systems

BPM tools cover a wide range of processes, but they can generally be divided into two groups: human-based and system-based processes. As such, BPM software tends to be oriented in one of these directions. With human BPM, people are the biggest priority. Automation is an important component, but it’s designed to support employee-led tasks.

This kind of software is built to accommodate manual intervention. Tasks can be put on hold, scheduled for a later time, or reallocated in response to changing resource requirements. As human operators are still in charge of shaping processes, there’s a greater emphasis on the efficiency of communication. Tasks aren’t automatically assigned and launched.

On the other hand, system-based BPM tools are more interested in the power of technology, and how far process automation can push productivity. They handle multiple applications within systems or between linked systems. System-centric software coordinates all of the processes associated with these applications, whether they’re custom, external, manual or packaged.

The Analytical Side of BPM Software

With the right BPM tools, businesses can capture, present, evaluate, enhance, manipulate and shape internal processes. The role of metrics is very important here. Gone are the days when companies had to make plausible inferences from a limited amount of data. Now, they can use real-world updates to make decisions and tune in to market trends.

The analytical component of BPM software feeds into an asset known as operational intelligence. This is a component of real-time BI that offers the ability to respond to actionable insights at lightning speed. This is a great advantage for businesses looking to optimize workflows. Four of the most common analytics tools are described below:

SIPOC

The term “SIPOC” stands for suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs and customers. This BPM tool creates detailed charts that are used to present process histories in their entirety. They’ve been around since the early eighties, so they’re not a new resource. Nevertheless, they continue to be used for things like brainstorming and quality assessments.

Workflows

Workflows take the form of structured diagrams. They represent a specific set of activities or processes and their intended outcome. They’re a highly flexible tool, as diagrams can be as simple as “A+B=C,” or they can involve multiple links to other processes, tasks and requirements. Successful workflows include information on essential resources (human, tech or material) and the practical steps needed to achieve that desired outcome.

RACI

RACIs are what’s known as a “responsible, accountable, consulted and informed matrix.” They’re sometimes called linear responsibility charts (LRCs) or responsibility assignment matrices (RAMs). They help to define roles, duties, and responsibilities. This makes them especially useful during periods of internal restructuring. With the support of RACIs, it’s easier to identify areas where roles may overlap and, therefore, eliminate redundant responsibilities.

CTQ

The “critical to quality” tree is an analytical tool designed to present products from the viewpoint of the consumer. For this reason, it’s primarily used during design processes. These charts (in the shape of a tree) highlight each customer need, expectation and performance demand, so that design teams have a set of clear objectives.

Creating a Cohesive BPM Lifecycle

As already discussed, business process management is commonly split into three objectives. The first is the evaluation of an existing process. The second is the implementation of improved features, based on weaknesses identified during the initial stage. The final objective is the monitoring of the new and improved process as a way to determine the rate of success.

If you want to look at this cycle in more detail, it can be further divided into five actions: design, modeling, execution, monitoring and optimization. The proper terminology in this case is “cycle,” as improvements should be occurring all the time in a recurrent fashion. Progressive, incremental changes are the key to sustained productivity.

Design

The targeted business process is captured in great detail, via the use of analytics tools and reliable data sources. There must be a clear representation of how it works and moves towards the desired conclusion. In many ways, this is the most important part of the cycle, as it’s where you’ll identify features that need to be changed.

Modelling

Analytics and simulation tools are used to assess the viability of the process and determine what improvements should be made.

Execution

The intended improvements are approved and finalized before being implemented, according to modeled plans.

Monitoring

The improved process is continuously monitored for value and viability. During this stage, it’s important to judge success, at least in part, on comparisons made with the original process.

Optimization

This is the final stage of the cycle, before it’s renewed for another round of improvements. Data from previous tweaks and changes is compared with metrics from the altered process. This is a necessity, as it ensures that improvements aren’t made just for the sake of change itself. They should only be permanently implemented if they create a better system than previous iterations.

A Word on Selecting the Right BPM Tools

There’s no shortage of BPM tools out there, so you’ve got to be cautious when shopping for a new product. Your choice of system should be based on best practices, where possible. For instance, it’s highly recommended that you involve all departments in software implementation and testing. This will make it much easier to draw up a suitable training schedule.

The best BPM software is designed to optimize operations, streamline communications and support the management of key resources. Therefore, it must provide increased transparency when it comes to the status and progress of tasks. It should offer a variety of metrics, dashboards and displays, as well as predictive capabilities. If it has all of that, your business processes will be in good hands.

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