Posted in Workflow Automation

9 Top BPM Tools for Growing Businesses

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 business process management software for your business, here’s a closer look at what BPM is and the top BPM tools on the market today.

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A Quick Intro to Business Process Management (BPM)

What is business process management? In short, BPM is software that’s designed to streamline business operations and facilitate continuous improvement — from simple admin to big policy decisions.

What is Business Process Management (BPM)?

Many small businesses and organizations still use spreadsheets, lists, and even paper forms to stay organized. This means staff wastes a lot of time on manual tasks like checking boxes, filling out forms, and managing data. By the same token, managers struggle to find inefficiencies and fix broken workflows.

Depending on which BPM platform you choose, you may be able to automate more internal processes and 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 and improve employee onboarding. With a BPM tool, 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 right manager, and reading from or writing to internal HR systems.

When your system is deployed, your BPM software allows you to monitor and revise each existing process. This means you can constantly improve how your organization works and find flaws and bottlenecks that cost time and money.

Business process management life cycle

Consider how BPM software has helped Initial Saudi Group speed up contract approvals.

Previously, processing contracts took up to 10 days and sometimes even longer because each one went through multiple departments. Setting up automated workflows that route contracts to the right approvers based on conditional rules helped streamline this process.

Contracts now take only a few days to process. The use of digital signatures means there’s no risk of lost or misplaced paperwork.

Why You Need a BPM Tool 

Paper-based processes are one area that has greatly benefited from BPM. With a BPM tool, you can digitize your forms and incorporate them into an automated workflow that routes them to the right approver. 

In one industry survey conducted by Forrester:

  • 44% of respondents say that digital document processes have increased employee productivity 
  • 54% of respondents cite improved employee collaboration as a benefit of digital document processes
  • 82% of respondents say digital document processes have allowed them to better serve customers
  • Organizations with digital document processes report 10 times fewer at-risk customers and two times less at-risk revenue than companies without these solutions in place

So, how can your business see similar results? There are many ways to deploy a BPM software solution. 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.

Here’s an example of a purchase order workflow with a conditional rule:

Purchase order workflow

Depending on how many purchase orders your organization sends each month, having a senior executive review and approve each one isn’t always practical. It could lead to backlogged work for the finance team.

The conditional rule in the workflow above makes purchase orders more efficient. POs are only routed to a senior executive if they exceed a certain value.

Travel Authorization

With the right BPM solution, 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.

Here’s an example of an expense reimbursement form:

The form can be directly integrated into your workflows, allowing employees to submit their expense claims and have them routed to the right approvers.

43% of businesses are still managing expense reports manually. This not only takes more time to process but also makes it difficult to catch instances of fraud. Using a BPM tool offers increased process visibility into employee spending.

Automated Invoicing

By connecting a BPM tool to your accounting software, it’s possible to automate complex processes like 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.

Here’s an example of an electronic signature field:

Electronic signature field

Managers can review and sign invoices from any device, whether they’re in the office or on the go. This speeds up the invoicing process and reduces paper usage.

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 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 process modeling without coding, it’s easier for business users – who understand how internal processes actually work – 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 as it also facilitates process improvement.

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 2021

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 organization size. 

To help you narrow the field, here is a hand-picked selection of the top platforms.

frevvo: Power and Ease for Businesses

frevvo logo

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 software 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 a mobile browser)

Best for: 

  • Small and medium-sized organizations that want to work smarter

Kissflow: Visual Process Building

kissflow logo

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 for any business activity.

The platform lacks many of the advanced features of enterprise-level software such as ADA compliance or custom PDF generation, but it’s 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 coding 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

Signavio logo

From modeling to mining, this platform has a long list of features to help managers analyze and optimize internal 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 this BPM suite, however, you need some significant I.T. assistance.

You can try Signavio for 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

monday.com logo

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 software solution 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 $30/month for three 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 

Blueworks Live logo

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

Novacura Flow logo

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 software solution 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

ProcessMaker: Low-Code Process Automation

ProcessMaker logo

This low-code platform lets you create and design business processes using a drag-and-drop interface. ProcessMaker also includes a form builder that you can use to build and create forms for your workflows. For those that want to extend the functionality of this platform even further, the scripting engine lets you write your own custom scripts.

Pros:

  • Drag-and-drop process modeler
  • Third-party integrations
  • Process validation engine

Cons:

  • Limited library of processes
  • Buggy mobile app
  • Expensive plans

Best for: 

  • Enterprises seeking to deploy automated processes

Appian: Low-Code Platform For Enterprises

Appian logo

Appian provides a low-code platform that enables organizations to build powerful applications and workflows using an intuitive workflow diagram. The visual tools are easy enough to use that even non-technical business users can build a process model and design business apps right away. One downside is the hefty pricing will likely price out many small to medium-sized businesses.

Appian offers a 14-day free trial. Pricing starts at $60 per user with a minimum of 100 users.

Pros:

  • Drag-and-drop functionality
  • Facilitates process design
  • Native mobile apps

Cons:

  • High price point
  • Dated interface
  • Some aspects require coding

Best for:

  • Enterprises that want to build their own apps

Wrike: Versatile Project Management Platform

Wrike logo

Wrike provides a centralized hub where teams can manage and collaborate for ongoing projects. It offers interactive Gantt charts and Kanban boards, so users can visualize their work in different ways. This platform also offers a growing library of templates that users can add to their dashboard and kick-start new projects.

However, this tool is primarily geared toward project management and only offers basic features in terms of workflow automation.

Wrike offers a free 14-day trial. Pricing starts at $9.80 per user a month.

Pros:

  • Multiple project views
  • Pre-built templates
  • 400+ integrations

Cons:

  • Not suited for BPM
  • Some integrations aren’t free

Best for:

  • Project management

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 business process management tool 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 get started with frevvo by signing up for a 30-day free trial.

Author:

Ashish Deshpande has worked in the process automation space for over 20 years. He has been instrumental in successfully deploying frevvo’s software at hundreds of organizations such as HBO, New York University, and Boston Public Schools. Ashish has contributed to leading publications such as Forbes, business.com and readwrite.com. Ashish received a PhD in Computer Science from Yale University, and a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India.