Process Tools in 2022
Tools of Impact and Their Purpose
Technology and process management are intrinsically entwined. According to APQC’s annual process and performance management survey, almost half of process teams (49%) are tapped to support technology implementations. Which means that process teams help their organization understand the current state, identify the future state, and support the implementation of a range of technologies from ERP systems to AI and automation.
Furthermore, process teams have also had to expand their toolbox over the last few years to include an array of technologies (e.g., automation and data tools) as well as methodologies (e.g., Agile and Design Thinking).
Relevant Technologies and Their Purpose
To garner a deeper understanding of which technologies are vital for process teams, we asked survey respondents to indicate which tools would be used as part of their efforts in 2022.
Top 5 Technologies for Process Teams in 2022
The top five tools make sense, given the crux of process work—working with partners in the business to harmonize processes and identify and manage valuable improvement opportunities.
- Data visualization tools — are tools that create graphical representation of information or data. Data visualization tools typically include tools that are used to develop graphic elements for reports or in dashboards. Data visualization tools decision makers access information and make better decisions by converting massive amounts of information and complex analysis into visuals.
- Process automation — is the use of software to mimic human action and connect multiple, fragmented systems together through automation. Process automation enables systems to carry out high-volume, multistep actions— without manual intervention by employees—to capture information, manipulate data, or trigger responses in other systems. Automation work is typically found at the heart of most digital work.
- Workflow tools — are software tools which allow users to design simple processes or workflow easily. Workflow tools are developed specifically for easy and intuitive use—through features like shortcut commands, low-code, and drag-and-drop editors. This means they are more approachable and useable by people within the business.
- ERP systems — or enterprise planning systems are a type of business process management software thar manages and integrates an organization’s day-to-day activities and processes in key areas like finance, sales, finance, supply chain, operations, and HR. Over the last couple of years many organizations have embarked on overhauling many legacy systems, including ERPs.
- Collaboration tools — are tools that simply help two or more people work together on a shared task, project, or goal. With the growth in virtual work environment, collaboration between a dispersed work force requires adopting tools that help teams communicate and work on documents and projects together.
However, less than a quarter of process teams are using advanced technologies like AI, natural language processes, simulation, process mining, and simulation into their regular toolkit. This reticence is typically tied to continued efforts to get organizations’ data houses in order and focus on large scale technology implementations (ERPs) and continued development of automation tools.
Purpose of Process Tools
In addition to understanding what tools process teams were using, we also wanted to understand why or what purpose the tools provided for teams.
Top 5 Purpose for Process Tools in 2022
Overall, the primary purposes of the tools process teams are using align to their intended purposes.
- Data-driven decision making — data visualization tools explicit purpose is to convert data and information into easy to absorb forms. Additionally, dashboard tools put information into decision makers hands so they can base things like improvement opportunities and projects on objective information.
- Replace manual processes — process automation and workflow tools are usually focused on helping employees focus on value-added processes by automating transactional, manual processes.
- Improve efficacy of process work — all the top five technologies are aimed at improving the efficacy of process teams’ work. From tools to create clarity on performance to building collaboration or enabling the facilitation of process projects with the business.
- Enhance visibility into operations — both data visualization and ERP systems rely on or create objective data on process performance.
- Improve data quality — several of the tools also have a role to play in improving data quality.
Automation can help remove human introduce errors in data processing. However, data visualizations can help uncover data issues as well as engage people in the business on the value of things like data access, cleanliness, consistency across teams.
Data is still a key driver and inhibitor of process efforts and the tools in teams’ toolboxes. Hence advanced technologies like AI, natural language processes, and process mining have not fully gained traction with the majority of process teams. Instead, teams continue to focus on technologies that are a priority or major implementation project for the organization—data visualization, ERP systems, and automation. The positive side to these technologies typically also has a side benefit of improving data quality and management. However, process teams are also likely to emphasize tools that support decision making and make working in project teams easier—which overall helps teams improve the efficacy of their process efforts.
Dive into Data Visualization Tools Poll
Data visualization tools create visual representation of information or data. They typically include tools to develop graphic elements for reports, infographics, or in dashboards. Examples include Tableau, Power BI, ChartBlocks, Datawrapper, Infogram, Grafana, and Polymaps.
Participate in this quick poll to help us learn more about organizations’ applications, management, and challenges regarding data visualization tools. All responses are confidential and will only be reported in the aggregate.
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Building on more than 10 years of business research and consulting experience, Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland is a principal research lead who conducts and publishes APQC research on process management and improvement, quality, project management, measurement, and benchmarking for APQC’s Process and Performance Management research team. Her research supports APQC members and clients across disciplines and centers on helping professionals and project managers solve business problems with strategy, process and measurement.
Holly regularly partners with other APQC research leads to look at improving the end-to-end business processes in areas such as procure-to-pay or order-to-cash where true improvement rests in the entire process versus one functional department. On a biannual basis, she conducts APQC’s extensive research survey and report on The Value of Benchmarking as well as annual surveys and reports on how organizations adopt and use the Process Classification Framework®.
She is a regular contributor for APQC’s blogs on topics of process and performance management, benchmarking, and IT and organizes monthly webinars on these topics for APQC members and subscribers. A few of her more in-depth research reports include, Transformational Change: Making It Last and The Value of Benchmarking.