What do you need process management tools for? With software examples!

A process management tool creates the link between expert knowledge in workflows to the strategic alignment of key processes. Processual goals become the link in the company. Process modeling and tool-supported KPI management are only the first steps towards holistic business process management.

In times when markets are saturated and oversupply is the norm, companies should create a healthy cost-performance ratio. Cost-optimized workflows and high-quality processes create the balance between profitability and customer enthusiasm in the company. Establishing process management via the use of business process management software can be the ideal tool to achieve this state.

Process Management Tools

What is process management?

In the business context, process management is referred to as business process management (BPM for short) and includes process recording, process analysis and process optimization.

The focus is on the representation, measurement and adaptation of processes to defined goals. Standardized procedures for process recording are used to create transparency about processes, responsibilities and IT systems in a process management tool before analysis methods uncover the weak points and display them in the software. Process weaknesses are subsequently evaluated in order to initiate, implement and follow up changes with optimization measures.

Standardized modeling logics of business process management software

The entry point to process management is process mapping, which is referred to as process modeling. Process modeling creates the necessary transparency about the current state. Standardized procedures ensure that all necessary information is presented in a structured manner during modeling. In practice, this methodical procedure is also referred to as logic, since a temporally logical process sequence is mapped via the methodical procedure. Usually, different logics have to be selected in a process modeling tool.

EPK logic

Since the nineties, the EPK logic (eventcontrolled process chain) in Germany as the standard for process recording. As the name suggests, the activities and incomingevents take center stage. In a vertical representation within a process modeling tool, the required work equipment and IT systems are noted for activities to be performed. In addition, the persons involved are specified as responsible. Consequently, the EPC logic focuses on the process flow.

BPM-N

EPK logic is now often replaced by modeling according to BPM-N (Business Process Management Notation). BPM-N is considered to be an international standard and is particularly widespread in system development. The vertical mapping logic of the EPC procedure is shifted to a horizontal axis. In so-called swim lanes, system activities are modeled in parallel to the manual process steps, so that an integrated view is possible within the software. A change between responsibilities can be optimally read through the swim-lane structure.

Areas of application of process management

Process optimization is an essential goal of process management. After a process model of the current state has been created, analysis methods such as activity-based costing are used to identify potential and derive measures. These measures are formulated into quick wins or project assignments to be systematically implemented and tracked.

In addition to process optimization, many other areas of application have long been established in which process modeling in a process modeling tool is used as an essential component:

  • Develop new IT systems based on process descriptions.
  • Meet auditing requirements in a standardized manner.
  • Make comparisons with standard process models (e.g. CMMI, ITIL).
  • Complete training materials for new employees.
  • Present fundamentals for test automation.

Roles in process management

The use of process management creates an end-to-end view of processes that is often neglected in functionally organized companies. Departmental goals create silos that can be broken down by looking at processes. This requires a structural anchoring via roles and competencies in order to create a counterweight to hierarchical structures.

The role of a process manager is used to establish process management. This role has the methodological competence to model processes in process modeling tools together with business experts, to analyze them and to bring about optimization. In addition, so-called process owners are often appointed to act as a counterweight to functional decision-makers. They act as a link between departmental boundaries and make process-related decisions across functional individual interests.

Tasks of a process management software

A process management tool supports users in modeling, analyzing and storing actual and target processes. Structural aids are used to build up process libraries that can be compared with file cabinets. Process cost analyses and process simulations help to derive measures for action. Digital action lists round off the process optimization functions.

Some tools also offer options for creating workflows from process models that automate processes in IT systems. Free process management software with a focus on process modeling is often the entry point into this topic world.

The task portfolio of a supporting process management software is extensive. The following list provides an overview of the essential functions of process management software:

  • Create process models according to modeling logic.
  • Manage process models digitally.
  • Create process simulations and analyses.
  • Create work descriptions and publish them on a platform.
  • Collaboratively update processes via comments/feedback features.
  • Workflow creation and integration into IT systems.
  • Create and publish process dashboards with relevant KPIs.
  • Mapping of data models and architectural images.

What process management software is available? An overview.

The market offers a variety of tools for process management in the enterprise. The portfolio ranges from small process modeling software freeware providers to integrated all-round solutions. The following process management software overview shows the best-known providers of process management software open source and licensed solutions.

Process Management Freeware

As process management software open source can be recommended among other things free process management software products of the following listing:

Process modeling software with license models

The products aris, signavio, aeneis and adonis are the best known process modeling products in Germany. Mostly, these solutions are purchased as license models and operated on own servers. Increasingly, these software solutions are also sold as cloud process management software. The following list shows these and other commercial products:

Process Modeling Tool Microsoft

Microsoft user can use MS Visio as Process Modeling Tool*. The Microsoft family product uses modeling elements for process mapping. However, more advanced functions of process analysis or workflow creation are not integrated in this product.

Visio process modelingis therefore particularly suitable for beginners process management software to quickly achieve initial results. Other process management tools in the Microsoft family include SharePoint Workflows and Microsoft Power Automate.

How should you compare process management tools?

In order to identify the appropriate process modeling software for a company, the relevant criteria that classify a relevant solution are first defined. A distinction between must and can criteria is useful here. With the help of a utility analysis, a process management software comparison can take place on the basis of a defined funnel. The decision tree method is helpful for creating the funnel, in which all target criteria are first checked.

Functional criteria for a process management tool

The following list shows a selection of functional criteria that may be relevant for a process management software comparison:

  • Free choice of modeling logics in the process modeling tool (EPK, BPM-N).
  • Workflow creation.
  • Simulation and cost accounting.
  • Data exchange with connecting systems (MS-Excel, API, XML and BPEL).
  • Mobile portal with interaction options.
  • Process & Test Automation Capabilities.
  • Dashboard Functions.

Infrastructural criteria

In addition to functional criteria, infrastructural criteria must also be considered. The following overview gives an impression of possible selection factors:

  • Cloud vs. Saas Options.
  • European hosting (see also GDPR)
  • Compatibility with prevailing operating systems (Linux, Mac, Windows).
  • Free trial licenses.
  • Language support.
  • Roles and authorization management.

Also relevant is whether process management software can be used online and offline to store processes locally as well as make them virtually accessible to the company.

Differentiation between process and project management

Process and project management are united in their interdisciplinary view of a company. Both approaches focus on interrelationships that go beyond departments. The goal is to understand and control interrelationships. Nevertheless, both management methods differ significantly in one point:

While project management is characterized by its temporary nature, process management is particularly effective when it is used continuously.

Nevertheless, these methods do not work at cross purposes. When projects change processes, professional process management is important to ensure anchoring. In projects, on the other hand, it is essential if the actual processes are known and the target processes are modeled in order to process them without friction losses.

Use cases for a combined application

The combined use of process and project management can be useful in certain use cases and support the achievement of objectives in the best possible way. Two examples of this are described below:

Project objective: Development of new software based on current processes.

For such an assignment, the combination of project management providing the framework and process management providing the content is predestined. Process modeling is used to define the processes that are to be mapped in new software and used as the basis for developing workflows and features. Project management methods provide the temporal and structural framework to synchronize all further activities with the process activities.

Project objective: Develop corporate strategy.

Strategic projects can also be realized through process management. For the definition of the company’s orientation, a customer journey can help methodically. Here, the process flow is defined from the customer’s point of view and it is decided at which process steps an enthusiasm factor should be set and at which steps a cost consciousness dominates. In this way, a strategic focus can emerge that is considered directional for the underlying organization.

This procedure should be integrated into a framework project management, in whose structures complementary tasks such as a team organization as well as a time and procedure planning are fulfilled.

Integrated software solutions for process & project management

When looking for integrated software solutions, the depth of integration must be defined in advance. Project management tools with complementary process management modules are often found on the market. There are only a few providers on the market for an equally strong expression of both functions.

Project management software with process management module:

The software solution Asana promises project management and business process optimization within corporate projects. Asana advertises that manual tasks can be automated to avoid errors and reduce project delays. This means that Asana can be understood as a project management software with a process module – but not as a software for holistic process management. More in the detailed review of Asana.

The same applies to the Projektron BCSsolution from Projektron GmbH. The vendor identifies process management functions that can be used to control processes around project management using workflows and BPMN processes.

Equivalent software solutions

In contrast to add-on modules, the following list of products shows that process and project management are also offered as equivalent functions in one software:

  • Quam of the company Lintra (Microsoft Partner)
  • in-STEP BLUE by company microTool
  • Process modeling software next by company NextLevelConsulting

Conclusion

Process management is much more than a means for internal optimization. As a communication and training tool, Business Process Management is part of a change strategy and supports employee development. For the control of corporate processes, process-oriented key performance indicators can provide guidance and be used in the definition of objectives. To channel this diversity, process modeling software solutions are to be used as support and combined with project management tools.

Due to the variable field of application of Business Process Management, it is not left open whether process management is useful. Instead, you need to clarify how this methodology can be optimally integrated organizationally and system-wise in order to have a holistic effect.

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