10 Best Workflow Software for Business Process Management
Anyone who’s spent any length of time running a business will happily trade war stories with you about all the struggles they’ve endured over the years. The challenges of running your own business are almost endless, and even the best-laid plans can quite easily go awry. Effective business project management is crucial, but it’s much easier said than done.
Thankfully, the ongoing technological revolution is helping to lighten the load. Now, it’s possible to automate a whole host of business processes, reducing the risk of human error and freeing up team members to concentrate on other things. Workflow automation, then, is helping businesses enhance productivity without compromising in other areas.
To enable your business to reach its goals, you need to ensure that you streamline tasks into a smooth workflow process. Efficient workflow management is essential to achieving this objective—and choosing the right workflow management system can help you get there.
In this guide, we’ll look at the 10 best workflow management systems for businesses. We’ll also explore some other important questions, including what workflow management solutions do, their benefits, the features you should be looking out for when choosing workflow management systems, and why they’re so crucial in general.
What is workflow management software?
In short, workflow management tools aim to streamline business processes. They help boost overall efficiency by cutting out human error—whether by making sure people know what to do and ensuring nothing gets missed, or by using automation. Automated tools can perform a lot of repetitive, menial tasks repeatedly without making mistakes—and enhancing employee productivity.
It’s also worth discussing briefly here what workflows are. Workflows are in place to ensure the completion of specific tasks. Previously, many of these tasks would have required considerable human input—whether in the form of calls, meetings, emails, Slack messages, and so on—to make sure staff carried them out.
However, with the introduction of workflow management and automation software, it’s now possible to significantly improve the management of or even fully automate many of these tasks—including timesheets, employee onboarding, payroll, and many others. This makes it easier to streamline business workflows in a way that’s customizable to the needs of individual businesses and specific departments.
What does it do?
Workflow management involves, as the name suggests, managing workflow so that it runs at maximum efficiency. Workflow management tools create optimized paths to complete a series of tasks in a business process. This includes cutting out redundant tasks, mapping workflow, process implementation and automation, and uncovering areas for improvement.
What are the benefits?
There are numerous benefits of workplace management software. As we’ve mentioned, it helps to boost productivity. It also allows businesses to save money. Enhanced workflow management can also lead to improved job satisfaction and a better overall work culture.
This is because staff spends less time doing tedious tasks and can take on more engaging and fulfilling work that might require their judgment. By boosting morale in this way, workflow management tools can help create a happier workplace.
Why it’s important for process and workflow to work together
We should note here that process and workflow signify two different, though closely interconnected, things. In a nutshell, business processes involve a series of related actions, broken down into individual tasks. Workflow refers to the routing of these processes, incorporating a range of tools that enable them to flow smoothly in real-time.
In simple terms, process or procedures are the definition of what should happen, and workflow is what actually happens. Considering the two together maximizes the operational benefits you can achieve in a business.
Workflow management is a method of improving business process management. Although workflow doesn’t necessarily have to be automated, it’s increasingly the case that businesses are choosing to automate business process management functions through custom workflows to benefit from better productivity and reduced error rates.
As well as errors, a smooth workflow helps to eliminate bottlenecks, delays, and process failures, among other common problems. It requires detailed planning and analysis to ensure that processes flow to the requisite standard. This is why it’s so crucial for both process and workflow to be in harmony.
For example, using static documentation to define your business processes, with this not being updated and shaped by your actual workflow, will mean that the two will inherently be at odds with each other. And so, the output of your workflow will not match your initial intentions for the process. By bringing the documentation of processes and what actually happens in the business day-to-day into the same system, the reality of business processes will line up with your expectations set at the outset.
Must-have features of workflow software
So, now that we’ve established what workflow management software is and what it does, we need to look at the most important features you should be looking for when you come to choose a solution for your own business. With so many different options available, there’s a lot to consider when looking for the best workflow management software.
It helps a great deal if you have a clear idea before starting your search of which specific features are likely to be most beneficial to your business. With that in mind, here are a few things to look out for before you get your credit card out and commit to a purchase.
Why simplicity can be the key to success
It’s worth emphasizing that simplicity and ease of use are fundamental when choosing workflow management tools. If you have a workflow system that can only be understood and managed by a select few stakeholders, this is likely to lead to inefficiencies that hinder the future growth of your business.
In fact, it’s often the teams executing the workflow that have the most knowledge and can offer the best input for improving efficiency. Choosing process automation tools that are user-friendly and simple enough for everyone ensures that your staff are motivated and empowered, thereby keeping your business more agile.
Drag and drop workflow template design
As the interface via which team members interact with your workflow, process workflow templates inevitably comprise an essential component within it. This is why your templates need to be visually attractive and user-friendly. Otherwise, they could cause unnecessary confusion and inefficiencies.
Drag and drop templates, therefore, are an absolute must-have. Over-complicated layouts (i.e., tabular, multi-page, multi-column, confusing conditional formatting, hidden text, too many options to configure and so on) can be seriously counter-productive. Your workflow templates need to look good and be easy for people to use. This is a primary requirement.
Obviously, they’ll need features like decisions, loops, dependent dates, assigned to, attachments and data capture request options.
Workflow management systems, like just about any other technological tool, support mobile functionality. However, when choosing a workflow automation tool, you must ensure that it works just as well on mobile as it does on other devices.
So, it should require no coding on your part before the layout looks good on mobile—this should be a given. Its mobile design should be intuitive, with automatic pagination and bigger buttons, for example. Nor should you have to switch between devices because certain functions are only accessible on a desktop.
When you’re looking for workflow software, reporting needs to be a key consideration. Firstly, you need a solution that offers simplicity and straightforwardness in reporting. You need to be able to see instantly where things are, who’s got the ball, when specific tasks are due, and what’s overdue.
You need to be able to see what decisions have been made, and to have a clear overview of how successful your workflow is when looked at over a given period (in other words, quality). As well as how often workflow is used and resourcing levels. When looked at together, this will help you understand who’s taking on the most activity and where any blockages might be.
Improvement and collaboration
Your workflow software needs to enhance team performance and, crucially, collaboration among colleagues. It should allow you to communicate with your team in the same system in which the work is going on.
This way, everyone knows what’s going on in the same central place, rather than trying to decipher what’s happening in someone’s head, make sense of an email trail, or look for what’s been jotted down on a scrap piece of paper.
Likewise, the ability to call out or highlight colleagues through an appropriate mechanism can make a big difference to collaboration and overall performance standards. You must therefore ensure that your workflow software alerts them via email whenever a task needs their attention.
Integration is one of the most popular buzzwords in business today, and rightly so. But it is absolutely imperative when it comes to workflow automation; if your processes can pull data from web services, SQL databases, and other back-end systems, they’re going to be much more helpful to your business.
For example, take something as simple as vacation requests. If your system can access PTO (Paid Time Off) data from your HR system, processing these requests is far more straightforward and more transparent. Likewise, the expense approval process is considerably easier if your system can integrate with databases and accounting systems.
If you have a development team or technical resources available to code the information, then it’s likely you’re looking for systems that have a public API available. If not, or you’d simply like to get integration and automation up and running quicker, you should be looking for systems that support Zapier, Integrately, or Integromat.
These no-code middleware integration platforms may look complex to start with, but they’re incredibly easy once you get the hang of using them, and allow you to save a huge amount of time and reduce errors by implementing. Most major software platforms including Google Suite, Office 365, Salesforce, and others are supported in this way.
Notifications and reminders
Team members must be adequately notified whenever a workflow step is assigned to them. Workflow automation software generally allows for customization of these notifications and then sends them out automatically at the right time, generally via email.
At the same time, however, it’s vital to remember that employees typically receive a flood of emails. Your emails must be succinct and contain all the relevant information to save time and effort. With dynamic fields from the workflow in your emails, you should be able to use form data to construct any part of the message.
Of course, there will be times when employees procrastinate about taking action. Your workflow management system should have the capacity to respond to this by sending reminder notifications automatically, thus sparing line managers the need to intervene personally.
Top 10 Workflow Software Tools
Now it’s time for the main event. We’ve looked at the various options on the market and racked our brains, and now we present to you our list of the top 10 workflow software tools. Let’s delve in.
1. Process Bliss
Okay, so we might be a little biased here, but we’ve put Process Bliss at the top of our list with very good reason. This workflow management software helps you eliminate the chaos and deliver continual improvement to how your business works. Its robust workflow builder and process-quality analytics help you centralize workflow with ease.
Process Bliss integrates with more than 2,000 applications, including your CRM, email, and finance software. These apps include Microsoft Office 365, Gmail, Google Sheets, Google Calendar, Trello, Salesforce, Slack, and Feedly.
Project managers will also be pleased to hear that it serves as a powerful and straightforward project management software tool, facilitating easy collaboration and clear accountability by allowing you to track team progress on key projects from a single view.
Zapier is an online service that enables you to connect various business and productivity apps and create interlinked functions across them. By combining these apps, Zapier helps businesses create smooth automated workflows and therefore improve their productivity levels.
In addition, it helps teams get more done with less while eliminating human error across a range of functions. Its simple, user-friendly dashboard allows teams to manage individual automations (which it calls ‘Zaps’), combining multiple actions in a single instance.
Zapier is super useful for process and workflow automation, and should definitely be in your toolkit. It integrates with most major platforms, including Process Bliss. We recommend getting workflow ‘right’ manually first, and then automating stages over time. If you automate something that doesn’t work, it doesn’t make it right; it just makes it wrong faster. So start simple.
Pros: Zapier offers a user-friendly interface with a simple design, and it enables users to chain commands across different apps with minimal hassle.
Cons: While Zapier offers a free plan, it’s quite constrained. Free accounts can perform up to 100 Zaps per month, but only five at any one time. Also, the free tier doesn’t support Premium Zaps.
Adopted across a range of industries, including financial services, energy, and government, and across departments including human resources, customer services, and information technology, Nintex is a workplace management tool that allows businesses to automate processes easily.
Renowned for its ease of use, Nintex enables teams to deliver better outcomes by streamlining processes and through straightforward integrations. Indeed, its API connectors mean it integrates with a variety of third-party apps. Its drag-and-drop design makes it easy to automate even complicated processes.
Pros: Its simple, intuitive design (including on mobile) makes Nintex easy to get to grips with. It offers a wide choice of third-party integrations while also offering tools for managing functions such as RPA and process mapping.
Cons: Some businesses complain that Nintex’s pricing is too high. The number of workflows in the cloud dictates price point, and some firms may find this puts the software outside their price range.
4. Process Street
Process Street offers only relatively limited options for analytics and reporting, compared with some workflow automation tools. It’s nonetheless an effective and powerful tool that works well for teams with document-driven workflows.
Process Street integrates with over 1,000 third-party apps, including Formstack, via Zapier. Its free plan allows for an unlimited number of users, though some features are unavailable to non-paying users. It also comes equipped with a simple drag-and-drop task manager.
Its integration with Formstack, meanwhile, provides easy access to a considerable number of workflow templates.
Pros: Integrates with 1,000+ apps and features a user-friendly, drag-and-drop task manager. Its free plan can accommodate unlimited users.
Cons: Most features are not available on the free plan. Light on analytics and reporting functionality when compared to some other tools on the market. It does not support a flowchart view of your workflow process, which can make them hard to design or understand
Monday.com is a tool that offers a simple yet intuitive structure for workflow management. Just insert tasks into a workflow (or ‘board’) and then list the steps required to complete them. Its no-code automations free up your team to concentrate on more pressing responsibilities.
As well as being easy to set up and use, Monday.com also offers customizable alerts and notifications, helping to keep your team to stay organized and remain focused on its tasks. You can also view workflows in various ways, including Kanban boards and Gantt charts. Integrations include Trello, Dropbox, Slack, Jira, and GitHub.
Pros: Intuitive design with various ways of viewing workflows. No-code automations save time and effort. Custom alerts and notifications keep your team on track.
Cons: Expensive compared to some other workflow management tools, with complex pricing. No single-user plan. While its design offers great flexibility, this can make it complicated to initially set up. It doesn’t support repeatable workflows particularly well, so if you’re looking at wider process management then it can be a challenge. Moreover, viewing all your tasks in one single view is difficult. The system doesn’t handle scheduling of repeated workflows, or creating templates of a list of steps needed to do something (such as a process or procedure).
Kissflow is a no-code workflow management tool that allows users to create automated processes, handle case flow, build project boards, and more. It supports structured (e.g., case management) and unstructured workflows (e.g., BPM or process management). It’s straightforward to use and highly adaptable, with customizable workflows and dynamic routing.
It also offers trigger-based workflows and advanced reporting features and makes it easy for users to prioritize tasks and delegate them to co-workers. Instant notifications inform users when action is required or a task is complete while identifying bottlenecks and tracking task flows is made easy.
Pros: No-code workflow management and a plethora of features. Advanced reporting features along with customizable workflows. User-friendly design makes Kissflow easy to pick up and use.
Cons: Expensive for larger organizations and not always well-suited to smaller firms.
An open-source BPM and workflow tool, ProcessMaker features an easy-to-use interface that makes for a simpler and more straightforward user experience.
It features a simple drag-and-drop process modeling tool—allowing users to create and edit process diagrams—and is easy to use to communicate with team members and automate workflow.
Meanwhile, its document builder can be used to draft letters, invoices, contracts, and other documents.
Pros: Easy to use, with an intuitive drag-and-drop process modeling tool and comprehensive document builder. Simple tracking and workflow management.
Cons: Licensed on a per-user basis, so potentially quite expensive for bigger teams. The interface isn’t particularly user-friendly for beginners, so it can take some time to get people up to speed.
Trusted by huge global organizations as diverse as BP, the International Olympic Committee, and Kellogg’s, Screendragon makes it easy to automate key processes. Its advanced permissions, along with its personalized dashboards and customized reporting, mean that this workflow management software is easy to tailor to your needs.
Pricing starts at $20 per month per user, with a free demo available. It also offers a diverse selection of integrations, including ERP systems such as PeopleSoft and SAP and apps like Microsoft Office 365, with an open API for custom integrations.
Pros: Easily customizable and scalable, with diverse integrations and open API. No-code workflow builder. Generous storage capacity.
Cons: Screendragon’s flexibility can make it tricky to understand. Not all functionalities are immediately apparent. Document management and retrieval can be tricky.
Designed for transparency and visibility, ProWorkflow provides teams with a simple overview of which tasks are in the pipeline. Team members and clients alike can view the workflow dashboard, while customizable features and a drag-and-drop interface make it practical and flexible.
The ProWorkflow mobile app, suitable for both smartphones and tablets, provides features such as time-tracking and task management. It also integrates with a host of tools, including Quickbooks, Dropbox, GoogleDrive, and Microsoft OneDrive.
Pros: Flexible, customizable features visible to internal and external stakeholders. User-friendly, simple dashboard.
Cons: No dashboard widgets. Can be somewhat ‘buggy’ to use depending on your choice of browser.
Used by more than 20,000 companies worldwide, Wrike is designed in particular for mid-sized and larger businesses. Suitable for teams of five or more with an unlimited maximum, this workflow management solution is highly flexible, with customizable workflows, reports, request forms, and dashboards.
Wrike integrates with over 400 applications—including Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, Marketo, and Salesforce—and features like push notifications and deadline tracking can help keep teams focused. Users can also use standard workload views, Gantt charts, and Kanban boards to keep a watchful eye over tasks.
Pros: Various ways to visualize data and monitor workloads. Diverse range of configurable features and integrations.
Cons: Initial setup can be challenging. Not suitable for smaller businesses.
How to choose workflow software
We’ve listed the key features you should be looking for when choosing workflow software, but there are some other questions you should consider as well. Firstly, who’s going to be using your chosen workflow management tool? Will it be restricted to staff, or do external stakeholders—including clients—need access? What about role-based access control?
Secondly, you should consider how your workflow management software might slot into your existing system. This needs to be as smooth as possible to reduce the risk of disruption or lost productivity as staff struggle to understand it. You should also consider whether it aligns with your use cases and if it can scale to meet your future requirements.
You need to think carefully about how far your budget will stretch. As we’ve seen, some tools are designed for large workforces and others for smaller firms, which will reflect in their prices. Like most software as a service (SaaS) tools, they’re generally priced per user. Some software solutions have complicated pricing structures.
Most of all, perhaps, you need to be clear in your own mind about why you need workflow software and what exactly you’ll be using it for. You must understand whether you’re using it to enhance team collaboration or for process improvement. This understanding will go a long way to helping you find the right solution for your business.