In the 1980s and '90s many production companies started to realign their business towards their core processes by implementing world-class/Lean process management concepts.
For production and logistics companies this has been relatively easy, as their business is physical; you can layout the core activities in a chain, in a process and visualise the business.
In the '90s, many business process management software solutions emerged, allowing also 'paper' or service companies to visualise or document their processes as well.
With the many software solutions now available, which one should you select when you want to document your processes?
The key question to ask yourself is whether you simply want to document your processes, or whether you want to do more. Do you also want to:
- Align your business with your strategic goals
- Improve the costs, quality and delivery of your services
- Get to know your business better than ever before
- Involve and empower all your staff to be part of this
- Create a dynamic/flexible/agile company, fit to do deal with changes, new requirements and improvement
- Create a nicer, more enjoyable workplace for your staff
If these goals apply to you, then you don't just want to document your processes. Instead, you want to explore, possibly improve and then document them.
10 key functions to consider
Here are some of the essential capabilities of process management software:
- Must be workshop-oriented - The modelling or drafting part of the software must be suited for teams to get together and map a process instantly. This requires the software to map processes automatically after simple drag-and-drop gestures and react instantly to change suggestions without the need to draw lines manually.
- Must use simple icons - Teams should be able to intuitively use the system without the need for a special training, and be able to read and understand the process at a glance. For example, use of a forklift truck icon for a task that is executed with this type of vehicle.
- Intuitive and easy to use - The software must use a simple 'drag-and-drop' style and be easily understood and visually engaging. Preferably the user interface is similar to that of Microsoft Office Word/Excel and feels familiar.
- Ability to add and hide detail - The system should allow users to add different detail fields to the process map, including description fields, linking documents, defining input and output for each process step, defining and visualising whether process steps are value added or not, assigning roles, locations, IT systems, etc. However, in order to avoid unreadable process maps, the tooling must allow you to only show what is needed at a specific moment, to hide whatever is not needed.
- Must highlight exceptions to the norm - In human-centric processes the number of exceptions is often greater than the clean case. Therefore, the software must allow teams to easily map such exceptions, highlight how often they happen and define what steps are needed when they occur.
- Show the process from different perspectives and angles - The software should allow the team to look at the process in many different ways. In addition to the showing and hiding of detail (as per point 2), it should show which roles are executing the various steps of the process in so-called 'swim lanes'. Or, when needed to show similar swim lanes for their interaction with IT systems, or show which compliance rules apply to each process step, which location process steps are executed, etc. The software should not only help to document the process, but also help the team in exploring their understanding of the process from many different perspectives.
- Ability to run calculations - This enables teams to easily quantify and demonstrate changes in performance, as well as providing direct feedback on improvement suggestions and enabling a better understanding for all. The calculations and results thereof, including a bottleneck analysis on costs, lead time, process time, etc should be graphically represented by the tool for teams to intuitively understand without the need to switch to a spreadsheet.
- Ability to integrate compliance and risk management tooling - Allows operational teams to become more involved in these requirements, while the software should automatically create the required compliance reports. Any new changes in processes will then automatically result in updated compliance reports.
- Can immediately share results - The process tooling should immediately share its results to the entire company. When new and better ways of working are discussed by multi-functional teams, they must have access to these practices when they get back to their workplace. The shared processes instructions should be in the same intuitive language and offer the same Show/Hide and Switch View features as used during the workshop in order to be effective.
- Must focus on continuous improvement - When software includes a feedback or continuous improvement function, shop floor teams can truly participate in constantly re-assessing and updating processes.
Our Engage Process platform is designed to provide these specific functions to support your business' operations.
Find out how to document processes and procedures effectively
A Guide To Business Process Management
Want to know more about how process management works in practice? Download our whitepaper 'Starting your Business Process Management from Scratch'.
You can also learn about the wide range of products we offer, which are tailored to enhance the ability of our partners to deliver clear benefits through a focus on business process management.