The exciting news is that I’ve been given approval to implement workflow and business process management across our entire organization and find a vendor to partner with. After a lot of internal evangelizing, I have executive support to make it happen! I have accumulated a lot of great insights from colleagues about the functionality we need, and now have that most critical piece…budget!

I feel like I have already spent a ton of time on this, and we haven’t even started looking at products. So, for this next phase, I’m evaluating all manner of tools and applications, seeking the right solution for my company, and taking into consideration products (and their viability), appropriateness for our company, price, time-to-deploy, and the ‘fit’ with the vendor. Our goal is to ensure that we can get more work done faster, with improved communication and better results. We will certainly do our due diligence, but there are a lot of moving parts.

It is not hard to find software applications that are labeled as “BPM” or “workflow”. There are lots out there. Since I’ve spent considerable time learning about the needs of different groups within our company, I have a specific set of requirements based on those BPM and workflow needs. First and foremost, the product must meet our standards and desired goals: 1) Increase efficiency in our operations, 2) Streamline how work is accomplished, 3) Improve collaboration, and 4) Expand our (collective) business insights. More than anything else, of course, it needs to address our business issues— but has to do that without creating extra layers of work. In other words, this workflow solution should help us get the right people involved, give them the ability to make decisions based on better information, process the results of those decisions, trigger each step in the process, and provide a track record of what transpired. Whew!

In evaluating vendors, one thing that stands out is how many say they provide BPM and workflow tools, but on deeper inspection, it looks like that’s not actually the case. Instead of offering a unique workflow solution, many of these companies have what appears to be a workflow-based engine that was intended to work specifically with some other application; maybe ERP, CRM or SFA. That’s not what we are looking for— and I can spot an inadequate solution within two minutes into a demo.

Part of my evaluation is based on WHAT the product does, but also WHO the company is. This is not a pair of shoes that we are buying. I need to know that I can trust the people behind the product, that they take pride in what they do, and that they are easy to work with. After all, we are betting a major part of the foundation of our business on this.

I have taken part in a few demos and it is striking how most begin with a PowerPoint and 45 minutes of talking (a vendor monologue…) What I am looking for is a team who listens and wants to know my story. I want them to be honest and forthcoming, and to understand how they can help me and my company, given our unique characteristics.

The right vendor will be able to give me an accurate portrayal of what life will be like with its solution, and can address these questions:

  • Can the product they provide address processes both across all internal groups and externally to third-parties? How is integration and collaboration handled?
  • Does the product they provide improve workflow as a result of HOW it will be accessed?
  • Can the product they provide effectively facilitate workflow and processes through mobile, social and other types of digital interaction?
  • How much functionality does the company offer relative to electronic forms? Do they have the ability to accurately be called “smart forms”?
  • What is the ease of building apps and forms? Can non-developers and business users participate in creating and modifying processes?
  • Will I be able to take advantage of predictive capabilities with the product they provide?
  • Are there data and analytics capabilities that I can use to better understand how my processes are performing?

The answers to these questions will determine how we move forward and which vendor we choose. We want to start with a conversation and a dialogue, though, not sit through a one-size-fits-all presentation. My hope is to find a vendor who is interested in more than my purchase order. I am looking for a partner that is invested in me achieving the results we need. If I can find that company, then I know I will be closer to project success.