There are, broadly, three different types of business process improvement software, each with their own pros and cons. Process mapping and analysis software, such as Skore, process measurement software and automation software. In this article we will explore of each of these as well as general purpose diagramming software.
By breaking process improvement software down into these groups we hope it will make it easier for you to understand the benefits of each type.
PROCESS MAPPING AND ANALYSIS SOFTWARE
For any process improvement initiative to take place it is essential for teams to clearly understand their processes. There’s no better way to do that than through creating process maps. Process maps allow you to visualise even the most complex of processes in order to understand how work flows. They help you clarify who is involved, when something must happen, what tools are required to do it and how.
Process maps give you a baseline for process improvement, a starting point that you can build on. The best way for you to create process maps is in live collaborative process workshops where you can quickly align everyone.
Not only do they help get everyone on the same page but they also clearly highlight improvement opportunities. It is essential for any process improvement software to have some sort of process mapping embedded, or integrated, for it to be effective.
So what makes a good process improvement software in this category? Process improvement is a collaborative effort and should involve as many people as possible. That means any software you use needs to be easy to use and accessible to the widest audience.
There are many process mapping and analysis tools available but many are very technical, or designed specifically for business architects. This puts them out of reach of the average user and not ideally suited to a company wide process improvement effort.
An example of an easy to read process in Skore
Skore makes processes easy for everyone in a business, not just the analysts and architects. The simple process framework is easy to read and easy to follow. This process improvement software is used in live collaborative process workshops to capture processes maps and create instant analysis. Being web based, processes can be shared easily with anyone. The commenting feature allows all users to provide feedback and improvement suggestions.
Instantly identify improvements with analytics in Skore
If you’re looking for a complete solution for your process improvement software it’s worth looking at a process mapping and analysis tool that is easy to use, collaborative, web based and includes feedback and discussion features for capturing improvement ideas.
PROCESS MEASUREMENT SOFTWARE
This is a fairly niche but growing area for process improvement software. These tools tend to focus on presenting dashboards that show the performance of the process. This allows teams to be able to see the effect of their improvement efforts. If they make a change to a process they can see whether it improves performance or not.
The software will also support collaboration features allowing teams to discuss improvement ideas before implementing them.
The data used in these dashboards typically comes from a variety of different sources and systems. Many companies use a simple spreadsheet or a more sophisticated visual analytics tool such as Power BI. These tools don’t generally support collaboration features for teams to discuss and implement improvements.
Processes can be measured and improved over time
Often teams use visual management techniques with whiteboards displayed in prominent places around the office or shop floor. Using kanban, or similar, teams can see how work flows. Key tasks are pinned to the board and they move through various stages until completion.
There are many software platforms today that mimic the whiteboard and allow teams to collaborate remotely around this idea of a kanban type board.
If you’re looking for process improvement software and already have an easy and accessible process visualisation tool then it may be worth looking at process measurement software to help bolster your process improvement efforts.
PROCESS AUTOMATION SOFTWARE
Probably the most common type of software in this area is process automation. As a process improvement software, automation software can be extremely focused. Processes are easy to measure and easy to implement improvements.
Process automation is a huge area from large heavy weight business process management platforms through to low-code and even robotics. Process automation isn’t really process improvement software but it can be used very effectively.
Before processes can be automated, it is important to understand the process, what it should look like in the future and how it is going to be automated. That generally requires you to do some process mapping, analysis and design work. Some automation platforms include process mapping tools but these tend to be more technical and not for general use.
However, once the process has been designed and implemented in the automation tool, it becomes very easy to improve. A good automation software will include dashboards and allow easy changes to the workflow allowing you to target improvements very carefully.
If you are looking for process improvement software that is focused on automation then this is a good area to look at. Remember, you will still need an effective process mapping and analysis platform to get started.
We have included general purpose diagramming software here because of their prevalence in this space. As has been mentioned many times, creating some sort of process visualisation is essential to process improvement work.
The most common diagramming software is Microsoft Visio and it’s a very good tool with many different applications. Most diagramming tools are clones of MS Visio, with either more flexibility or an improved user interface.
This flexibility is also part of their challenge. These tools are not focused purely on process mapping. They do provide lots of options but they are not optimised for this type of work. Using a general purpose tool requires additional expertise to do it well. Work to visualise processes will require the constant attention of a small number of dedicated individuals, rather than broad input from the whole team.
Process improvement projects should be collaborative and engage the widest number of people possible. So starting with a tool that inherently excludes large parts of your team is perhaps not the best approach.
If you are looking for process improvement software, and have a dedicated team that can focus purely on process mapping, then a general purpose tool may well be the best option.
WHAT TYPE OF PROCESS IMPROVEMENT SOFTWARE IS BEST FOR YOU
The important things to consider when looking for process improvement software is to ensure you have all the necessary bases covered. To do process improvement well you need:
- Process mapping – the ability to visualise processes and get everyone aligned on how they work and what can be improved. You also need to create a baseline against which you can measure process improvement. A good process visualisation is one that is easy for the widest possible audience to understand and engage with.
- Central repository – any work you do needs to be accessible to everyone and not cause any confusion. Having a single source of truth for your documents and processes that can be accessed from anywhere is a must.
- Collaboration – process improvement is about collaboration and everyone contributing ideas and suggestions. Any process improvement software you select should have the ability to collaborate and leave suggestions and improvements.
- Measurement – it’s important to measure processes so you can see how effective your improvements are. Most measurements will come from existing systems so consider how you can extract this information into a dedicated system or to your existing management information dashboards.
Like to learn more about Skore software? Check out How Skore Works to learn more.