Every organization has many moving parts. Just like an orchestra, it’s essential to make sure everyone is playing the same tune. Business process management (BPM) tools are designed to help you analyze and optimize your workflows, so that all sections work in harmony.
There are dozens of business process management platforms to choose from nowadays, each offering something a little different. To help you find the right solution for your organization, here is a closer look at what BPM is and the top BPM tools on the market today.
What Is Business Process Management?
Many small businesses and organizations still use spreadsheets, lists, and even paper forms to stay organized. This means staff wastes a lot of time checking boxes, filling out forms, and managing data. By the same token, managers struggle to find inefficiencies and fix broken workflows.
Business process management (BPM) tools are software suites that are designed to streamline every part of your organization — from simple admin to big policy decisions.
Depending on which BPM software you choose, you may be able to automate certain tasks or collaborate more effectively. At the same time, managers can gain a better overview and spot areas for improvement.
How BPM Software Works
To get started with your BPM software, you first need to identify the key processes of your organization. This could be through full-scale process modeling or simple project management recipes. BPM tools vary in terms of how much they can be customized to suit your organization.
Suppose you want to make your HR department more efficient. With BPM software, you can build a process that includes data entry, calculations, and approval. Along the way, you can insert automations, such as copying data from one form to the next, routing a form to the relevant manager for approval, and reading from or writing to internal HR systems.
When your system is deployed, your BPM software allows you to monitor and revise each process. This means you can constantly improve how your organization works and find flaws and bottlenecks that cost time and money.
Why You Need a BPM
Businesses that have deployed BPM tools have good things to say. In one comprehensive industry survey:
- 78% of respondents believed that using a BPM had made their business more flexible
- 77% said that using a BPM had improved their compliance and risk management
- 74% of respondents who aimed to reduce manual work reported positive results
- 78% stated that they had improved their management of client interactions
So, how can your business see similar results? There are many ways to deploy BPM. Here are three example use cases:
Purchase Order Management
Using BPM software, you can automate the purchase order process. Your employee places their order using a customized online form and the software helps out by performing calculations to reduce errors. Based on the rules you create, the order will then automatically be routed to one or more relevant managers, who can all sign off electronically.
With BPM tools, you can also streamline travel authorization. A travel request created online using an electronic form is passed straight to the manager, who can approve or reject the trip and related expenses with a couple of clicks. When the employee returns, they can input their actual expenses or even enter expenses on the fly using their mobile device. Employees can often submit expenses by simply taking photos of their receipts. If they have exceeded their estimate, the system will automatically seek further approval.
By connecting a BPM tool to your accounting software, it’s possible to automate invoicing. Your sales figure or billable hours are imported automatically and the software calculates subtotals and totals. Each invoice is then forwarded to a manager, who can approve it with an electronic signature. The system can even generate an invoice and electronically send it to the client.
Features to Look for in BPM Tools
The features you will find in BPM software vary enormously. However, these are the important features we’ve found that customers most often look for.
Zero-code business process modeling: For any process to run smoothly, everyone involved needs to be on the same page. Within your BPM software, this feature lets you drag-and-drop to design a step-by-step visual model that shows exactly how your business or department should operate. When the software allows 100% visual modeling without coding, it’s easier for business users – who understand how the underlying process actually works – to quickly describe the steps.
Business rules engine: The best way to make your organization more efficient is to automate everything you can. A visual rules wizard allows anyone to create logic-based automations without writing code. For smaller businesses with limited technical staff, it’s a great feature to have.
Workflow management: Whereas process modeling provides an overview, workflow management is all about specifying exactly how processes should be executed, routing them to the right people at the right time, notifying and reminding them, and enforcing security constraints along the way. Having this feature in your BPM software gives you fine control with minimal effort.
Visual form designer: From client orders to inventory management to leave approval, almost every real-world business process starts with a form. With a form generator, you can design inputs that are customized to your needs, without leaving your BPM software. Many modern platforms also allow you to collect electronic signatures, and create forms that work on all devices.
Collaboration: Unless you manage your organization alone, you will probably want to collaborate within your BPM. This could mean being able to assign tasks to individuals, create automations together, or just leave helpful notes for one another.
Analytics: To understand your organization better and find ways to optimize your processes, it’s essential to have good data. Many platforms offer analytics to provide instant insights, and you may be able to export the data for your own records.
Integration capabilities: While BPM software can handle many tasks, you will probably still rely on your other software tools. Choosing a BPM system that integrates with your current setup helps to minimize disruption. Furthermore, you may find other integrations to extend your automation or improve your analytics.
Top BPM Tools in 2020
With these features in mind, it’s time to take a look at the options. The choice of BPM tools today is vast, with solutions targeting every industry and size of organization. To help you narrow the field, here is a hand-picked selection of the top platforms.
frevvo: Power and Ease for Businesses
In the sweet spot between ease of use and functionality, frevvo’s BPM software allows you to set up sophisticated automations and forms using simple drag-and-drop designers.
The platform provides a library of pre-built templates to speed up the design of the process, and you can connect it to a variety of third-party apps (including SQL databases, Active Directory, Google Apps, and others) using no-code, 100% visual designers and wizards. This is particularly useful in SMBs, higher education, K-12 schools, and public institutions where I.T. support is limited.
frevvo can handle a range of use cases, from finance to HR and operations. It works perfectly on both desktop and mobile devices, with forms that adapt to different screen sizes. In addition, this BPM tool supports a range of enterprise features such as electronic signatures, PDF generation, ADA compliance, SAML integration, and more so you can go completely paperless. But it’s simple enough to be the perfect BPM software for small businesses.
You can sign up now to try frevvo free for 30 days. Plans start at $260 per month, covering unlimited users.
Pros: simple drag-and-drop controls, zero coding required, powerful features, works on all devices, third-party integrations, e-signature support
Cons: No native mobile apps (works in mobile browser)
Best for: small and medium-sized organizations that want to work smarter
Kissflow: Visual Process Building
This popular no-code environment lets you create custom forms and workflows using simple drag-and-drop controls. It provides an extensive list of cookie-cutter apps, meaning you can produce automations. The platform lacks many of the advanced features of enterprise-level software such as ADA compliance or custom PDF generation, but it is relatively easy to use. On-premise software is not available.
Kissflow offers a 14-day free trial, and pricing starts from $360 per month for up to 30 users.
Pros: no code needed, loads of apps, easy to customize
Cons: lacks enterprise capabilities, uninspiring UI, relatively pricey
Best for: smaller organizations that need flexibility
Signavio: Enterprise-Level Features
From modeling to mining, this platform has a long list of features to help managers analyze processes at scale. You can build workflows using a visual editor and the software has a number of collaboration features for providing direct feedback. To get the most out of Signavio, however, you need some significant I.T. assistance.
You can try Signavio free and pricing is available on request.
Pros: Packed with features, intelligent modeling, good for collaboration
Cons: Requires technical backup, not the prettiest, pretty expensive
Best for: large businesses with strong I.T. departments
Monday.com: Beautiful Project Management
This relative newcomer focuses on project management. Through a sleek interface, users can easily upload files, assign tasks, and track the status of any task. Monday.com also supports data collection, kanban boards, and time tracking. However, this tool is designed for project management rather than BPM. Unlike processes, projects are not repeatable activities performed multiple times. They’re ad-hoc in nature since unexpected challenges come up.
Monday.com is free to try for 30 days, and subscriptions start at $39/month for five users.
Pros: clean interface, easy to use, lots of integrations
Cons: limited automation, not really suited for BPM
Best for: project management for individual projects
IBM Blueworks Live: Automation for the Big Guys
This solution focuses on automated workflows and has a visual editor for process mapping. Blueworks Live is fairly user-friendly and the platform has embedded tutorials to help users get up to speed. On the technical side, you can hook up your BPM to a variety of other IBM products — although this can get confusing even for professional programmers.
Blueworks Live is free to try for 30 days and plans start at $53 per user/month.
Pros: visual workflow builder, easy deployment, IBM integrations
Cons: editor sometimes buggy, integrations require programming knowledge, pricey
Best for: larger companies focusing on automation
Novacura Flow: Low-Code Logic
Designed to integrate with your ERP, Novacura Flow lets you turn processes into apps for any device. This includes computers, tablets, phones, and even barcode scanners — potentially useful for stock management, logistics, and retail operations. The main downside of this platform is the interface, which is confusing for newcomers.
There is no free trial, and pricing is by request only.
Pros: allows you to create apps, low-code process builder, works with your ERP
Cons: confusing interface, poor documentation, not the best support, no trial offered
Best for: using alongside an ERP
Which BPM Software Should You Choose?
As this guide shows, there are numerous BPM tools to choose from — each offering a unique blend of features.
When it comes to picking the right solution for your business, reviews can only tell you so much. Before you commit, we would recommend you try each tool for yourself — and you can start right here with a 30-day free trial.