7 crucial steps for choosing the right BPM software
Determining which business process management (BPM) software is right for your company can be challenging for several reasons. First, BPM is a complex market and products vary greatly in features and capabilities. Second, evaluating your business needs isn’t always straightforward.
However, by following these 7 steps, you’ll be able to accurately determine what your business needs, measure up software to meet those needs, and feel confident in the final decision.
1. Determine that you need BPM software (or a new one)
Make sure what you need is a new software (and not new management) before you jump into the commitment it takes to find the right business process management system.
Clear signs that you need BPM software are:
- Duplicate data is everywhere and you may be adding to the problem by inputting the data is several systems
- Approvals take longer than they should or are expected to take
- Pushing paper, PDFs, and excel sheets are the only way to get the job done
- Legacy interfaces are difficult to use and can’t adapt to your company’s growing needs
Even if your company is only experiencing one or two of these problems, it still may be beneficial to invest in a BPM software. Realizing you need a BPM software is a little easier than determining you need a new one--also because no one wants to admit their first pick wasn’t any good.
For example, focusing on the new software over business objectives could be a sign of a slow adaption, but not necessarily a sign that the software won’t eventually meet your company’s needs. However, if you find that you, or your colleagues, are fixating on creating perfect processes, then this could mean the software is too rigid and inflexible to be truly helpful.
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2. Identify essential features that the tool should have
Once you've determine the reasons you need a BPM software, it’s easier to pinpoint which features are essential.
To get down to core features you’ll need, approach your major problems with these questions:
- Is standardization or rigid requirements more important than flexibility? This will help you determine the level of agile customization you need.
- Are employees tied-up in doing too much mechanical work? If yes, consider a BPM with strong automation capabilities and possibly robotic process automation (RPA) compatible.
- Does your process require you to interact frequently with third parties? If so, your software should enable customers, suppliers, and other members outside of your organization to interact with you via the system.
- Are you drowning in unorganized or unutilized data? Analytical reports and a secure and customizable database are a must. If reports are easy to generate and read, this would be a bonus.
- Is your company growing or on the verge of scaling? Avoid migration by choosing software that will grow with your company. Imagine future needs and if the software can keep up.
- Does your company rely on multiple legacy systems? Choose a software with a more navigable interface and that can bring all or several legacy systems together smoothly.
Lastly for this step, remember you’re looking to solve a problem, not buy a feature. If your problem can be solved without a feature you thought was essential, then don’t make that feature a deciding factor.
3. Get a budget by presenting a value proposition to leadership
To get leadership on board with investing in a BPM, you need to focus on results. Even though BPM might facilitate a lot of tasks for people in your department, executives and management aren't wired to weigh task facilitation heavily.
Most executives are wired to think in terms of revenue and most managers are wired to think in terms of performance. That's how they ensure that each working part of the business is fulfilling its purpose. Considering their way of prioritizing, to get a budget, you need to present the potential gains of a new software in their terms, not yours.
Once you have a budget, this can instantly narrow down your list of choices; however, prices are negotiable especially if you plan on giving user access to 50+ people in your company.
4. Define deploy time, adoption time, and support standards
When you dive into the BPM market, you’ll find that most software companies will argue they have a fast deployment and require little to no code. That’s when having a timeframe that estimates process design, deploy and adoption gives you an advantage.
According to Aditya Sengupta, the Head of the Transformation Team at Wipro, a typical process design time is about four months, but he has found industry outliers that can deploy in a few weeks or less.
The BPM software's customer support reputation should also be considered in the decision process. Not all BPM software was built for business users, and not all is suitable for IT. Know who will frequently use the new software, and make sure they will have the support they need.
If the software is known for having a high drop off or churn over rate, this is a sign it was good on paper but not easy to use. Read deep into case studies and reviews to prevent being oversold.
5. Define how and when to measure success
Success should be defined in predominantly quantitative terms before the product is fully implemented. Qualitative terms open-up too much room open for debate and could leave you with a product that isn’t financially worth its original investment. Set numerical goals with a given margin of error, and account for adoption time delaying performance.
A good measurement to consider is total process time. Measure how long each process takes to complete before implementing a new software. Define the start and end of the process with the employees who will see it out, and make sure they know this is a test of how long it normally takes--not how fast they can complete it. Compare the total process time of before implementation with the time after full adoption.
6. Be proactive in demos & measure-up the product to your needs
Scheduling demos and participating with prepared questions is the most important step in choosing the right BPM software. It’s during the demo that you can figure out what the product is capable of accomplishing and get a feel if it’s the right choice for your business.
Questions to ask the demonstrator or sales rep:
- How can your product help me solve my problem? Describe in a few words what you major problem or problems are and let the demonstrator show you how their product can or can’t fulfill your needs.
- Do you have any specific features that would help solve this problem? This question will help you dig into the full capabilities of the product.
- Do you see your product as the best solution for my problem? Most will respond yes, but you can get an idea of to what extent based on their response.
- Do you have any clients in my industry or cases similar to mine? In the best case scenario, you’ll be one of many clients in that industry or trying to solve a similar problem. Before you jump into another product demo, reflect on the information you received. Consider asking yourself some of the following questions and putting the answer with the rest of your notes for comparison later.
7. Check-in and make process improvements
Last but not least, it's important to not forget about the software once it’s implemented. Regularly review your processes, check-in with employees to ask if something needs improvement, and test small changes with the goal of increasing productivity.