As far as software goes, business process management (BPM) — as a concept — is a nebulous entity to understand.
So, before we break down the various types of BPM software, let's first clarify what BMP means.
What is business process management?
The idea behind BMP is fairly straightforward: optimize a company’s repetitive, high-level business functions like customer interaction, form generation, and more. To do this, BPM software typically breaks down the business process cycle into the following steps:
But beyond those general categories, there doesn’t seem to be clear agreement on how to organize or categorize business processes themselves.
What makes business process management hard to understand?
Simply, the diversity. The reason business process management is so difficult to pin down is that every business will use their BPM solution differently. Not only that, but BPM often falls under the scope of work for more than one department. Deciding who owns a process and how you’ll apply BPM to your business is half the battle.
What types of business processes are there?
Just in case determining your scope of use wasn’t confusing enough, check out how business processes are classified.
Some business systems analysts type-sort business processes by their interactions. That is, they focus on the way systems work together, how people work together, and how both systems and people interact and connect with each other. For example, your business may focus on numerous system-to-system processes. Or maybe you just encounter lots of human interaction, so person-to-person processes are a big deal. You might even have some processes that require a little personal touch before leaving the rest to a software program.
Other business systems analysts extend the interaction concept by determining what each process handles. They might classify a process as a document interaction if it involves routing and verifying contracts or shipping orders. Furthermore, approval-heavy processes that require lots of confirmations or authorizations might be classified as decision interactions.
Still others would classify business processes by their priority or essentiality to daily business activities. The primary, highest-priority processes are those that are most necessary: core functions that a business couldn’t operate without. Secondary or support processes, on the other hand, are activities that are nonessential but help with continuity or fluidity in daily work.
Business processes can also be classified according to who — or what — runs them. Manual processes involve human interaction at one or more steps over the course of the process, while automated processes require only an initial setup before running without human interference.
How to find the right BPM for your business
Because of the numerous uses for BPM software, the process for finding a BPM solution isn’t clear-cut. That doesn't mean all hope is lost: here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Step 1: Do your research before you buy
First, determine which business processes you need to optimize. Make a requirements list and lay everything out. What you’re doing here is outlining the core functions or systems that a BPM solution needs to address to be useful for you. Do you need those processes to be manual? Automatic? Are they a little of each?
Next, consider what might change in that list. Businesses are dynamic entities, and your needs are going to grow or alter as your business changes. Is it more worthwhile for your business to purchase software for your immediate needs, or should you consider buying based on what’s to come?
Third, understand your price range. Small businesses might be inclined toward free or inexpensive BPM solutions, which would fit their price range but also come with a more limited scope of features. Enterprises, on the other hand, most likely will be aiming for higher-priced, more elaborate BPM software that presents a huge range of features. While price doesn't always correlate with breadth of features, it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for.
Step 2: Know where to look for the right BPM software
Now that you’ve considered your needs, projected growth, and price, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to actually choose a BPM solution. (Grab your requirements list.)
Start by considering automation. If there are any processes that require automation, you can use that as a way to rule out software that isn’t able to model automated processes. (The pool of non-automating solutions is shrinking, however, so this might not be a big concern.)
Your next step depends on how highly your company prioritizes pricing. If the price point is going to be the limiting factor, this is where you should start: by filtering potential BPM software by cost. While that may seem too limiting, filtering first by price will provide you with a better idea of the functionality you can get for your available funds. For small- and mid-size businesses, filtering first by price may also help reduce the probability of “overbuying:” that is, purchasing a BPM solution that does far more than you need.
Next, this is where you’ve really got to do your due diligence. Whether you needed to check your budget before getting to this point or not, you now need to determine if a BPM solution is capable of meeting the requirements on your list. If document generation is a big part of your business’ daily workflow, you’d better be sure that your BPM solution has strong doc gen process management. Are ticketing systems an important part of getting the job done? Be sure that the process map can include ticket generation and assignment. If multi-departmental approvals need to happen often, make sure your BPM can handle bouncing approvals from team to team.
Step 3: Know you have flexibility
Understand that if your budget is a little limited, you might have to sacrifice some of the “secondary” processes from your list to find a solution in your price range. But making that sacrifice may not be necessary. As BPM solutions have evolved, process management capabilities have diversified. Business process management features have expanded to be able to handle several process types, meaning you might not have to sacrifice BPM strength for budget.
Shopping for a BPM solution shouldn’t be much different than shopping for a pair of jeans, even if it doesn’t seem that way because of all the options. Figure out what you need (be it a slim-fit dark wash or automating your shipping documents), hone in on your price range, and start knocking away what doesn’t fit your requirements.
Want to know how AI is impacting process management? Learn about 2019 AI trends, including how AI is affecting process automation.