4 Simple Business Process Management Tools

You’ve probably navigated your way to this site because you have an interest in business process management, however you choose to describe it.  I say that because business process management means something different to each and every person.  In my worldview it is all about aligning a business with the needs of it’s customers, and those can be external customers in a normal scenario or it could be internal customers if you are running an internal shared services organization, for example.  No matter how you define customer, BPM is all about ensuring you have optimized your relationship with your customer in a way that is mutually beneficial to the both of you.  Truly it is a process optimization process.

The problem that I have with business process management is that it seems as though as more and more vendors have hopped on the bandwagon of trying to sell technology tools to meet the needs of companies wanting to improve their processes that they have made it too complex and too expensive.

Ask someone what BPM tools are available and you’ll get a spewing of vendors like Appian, BEA Systems, Cordys, EMC, Global360, HandySoft, IBM, Lombardi Software, Metastorm, Pegasystems,  Tibco Software and Ultimus offering suites that include modelers, asset managers, business rules engines, and process management and deployment tools.  There are business process management tools, document automation tools, workflow design tools – this list just goes on and on.

I have gone through a number of outstanding process optimization projects that resulted in an improved customer experience that was mutually beneficial to my company – the very definition of BPM – but we didn’t use millions of dollars of business process management tools to make these improvements, we used a handful of simple tools.  I would like to describe them here and suggest that these may be all you need when combined with a team of RFSers (Really Freaking Smart):

3M PostIt Notes

Original Post-It Notes are one of the simplest yet effective tools you can invest in. It is amazing what a smart group of people can do with a bunch of Post-It Notes and some pens. If you want to really learn how such a simple tool can be most effective you owe it to yourself to invest in
Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes, a great little book that will give you plenty of ideas for how to optimize your use of this very simple business process management tool.

Microsoft Visio for BPM

While it is true that there are plenty of cheaper process mapping tools to choose from, the Gold Standard in my opinion is Microsoft Visio Professional 2007. You can pick up a copy for under $500, which is dirt cheap compared to most business process management tools. Take the results of your Post-It Note brainstorming sessions and use Visio to actually draft up the process you are working on improving. To get the most out of Visio I recommend purchasing the Visio 2007 Bible, which as the name implies is literally the bible when it comes to maximizing your use of Visio.

Wordpress

Once you have reached the point where you have documented your process there will need to be a lot of back and forth between the process improvement team members in regards to improving the process. What you need now is a simple document management system. If you are a pure Microsoft shop perhaps your best bet is truly Microsoft SharePoint, but for the rest of us looking to get a full-featured document management system without a lot of overhead or expense, then I think WordPress is the way to go. Easy to install, maintain and use. And the best part of it is that it is free. Invest a small amount in a great WordPress Theme and a book like WordPress for Business Bloggers and you will be all set to go.

Swimlane Flowchart

Finally, I would be remiss in not plugging my own site here – you’ve got to learn everything you can about Swimlane Flowcharts because these are the absolute most important kinds of flowcharts that you will use when trying to optimize a business process. Check out my flowchart examples and learn from them so that you can apply the principals to your own project.

So that’s it – 4 Simple Business Process Management Tools that you can use to implement BPM within your organization at a cost that is millions less than what the big vendors will want to charge you.

Good luck in your process improvement projects!



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