What is Operations Management Software?
Operations management software is any digital solution that assists in the task of running a business, process planning, execution, and ongoing management. With rising complexity and specialization of work, software that helps manage these responsibilities is in high demand, due to its potential to dramatically increase work efficiency, resource savings, and overall quality of the work delivered.
With a wide variety of tools focusing on various aspects of operations management, this category of software products is heavily used across virtually all business functions: from project management, to distributing and managing workload among smaller teams, to fully integrated enterprise level solutions.
Most Popular Operations Management Categories
How to Choose Operations Management Software
The key software features of operations management revolve around daily business operations like the production of goods or the delivery of services. This means that operations software is often concerned with the ability to estimate, plan and schedule resources (like budgeting, inventory or time tracking / scheduling). More advanced operations management software features include managing, controlling, tracking and communicating progress, resource allocation and informing decision-making while assisting with collaboration, documentation and administration, as well as many other areas.
Often, operations management software combines a multitude of these features in one application. Most industries tend to inspire the creation of a multitude of apps that combine the most important features for that particular industry in one central solution. Operations management software targeted at the construction industry for example might combine extensive inventory and material tracking with employee time tracking for contract workers. In contrast, a design agency might best be aided by a suite of collaborative tools alongside project progress tracking and an integrated cloud based file management solution.
Operations and project related software is all about workflow optimization.
Though tools and functionality are used similarly within one given industry, the size of the business you are choosing the software for also has a large impact. Generally, small and medium sized businesses require lower levels of integration and customization, making their operations management software easier to maintain, cheaper and more flexible. Enterprise level software on the other hand is better equipped to handle large amounts of data and higher numbers of simultaneous users and level of detail. With the emergence of cloud based software, many operations management software products today allow for cross-device synchronisation and offer not only web-based but also mobile and desktop versions - all linked to a central, hosted database controlled through a web-interface.
Subcategories of Operations Management Software
- Agile & Other Methods: Fast paced work environments require software solutions that facilitate and enable agile project management. Agile project management applications feature many of the traditional tools used in project management software, like task tracking or time and resource planning. In contrast to normal software, agile management applications incorporate popular approaches like Kanban, Scrum, Agile and Sprint, as well as a range of other Lean Management and Toyota Production System (TPS) methodologies. Visualizing agile workflows through Gantt charts, faster and more flexible adjustment options, better work coordination and issue tracking are some of the more specialized features in agile project management software.
- Business Management: The organization and optimization of on-going, everyday tasks and normal business procedures requires lots of resources and manpower. Business management software aims to provide support to business process managers and roles responsible for business operation. Common features include inventory and expense tracking, customer and lead management and especially workflow and process visualization tools to identify bottlenecks, forecast capacity limits and resource use.
- Business Process Management (BPM): Closely linked to workflow design and management, business process management software helps users with the design, visualization, automation and implementation of business processes. Applications help analyse bottlenecks, redundancies and other problems within existing processes and optimize new processes to fit into a work environment with the lowest integrational cost.
- Event Management: The design, planning and coordination of complex events requires a broad range of functionality that normal project management software does not support. Event management software delivers features adapted to the event industry and enables event managers to better handle tasks like online registration, ticketing/booking and guest lists. With features like conference, convention and venue management these applications offer full support of all types of events, from corporate product launches to fully-fledged faires and multi-national industry exhibitions. Event management applications can help users achieve more efficient attendee management, higher sales with online payment methods integration, higher engagement with feedback and review systems and integrated social media campaigning that allows better audience targeting. Some software offers features like localization, GPS-based equipment tracking and even file sharing support for presentations, maps, guides and other promotional material that organizers would want to share with their visitors.
- Field Service Management (FSM): Supporting sales agents, field workers and fleet managers, field service management software is all about optimizing routing and effective fleet use. With features such as automatic territory management, map visualization, calendar management and appointment scheduling, FSM applications help optimize routing, decrease traveling times in between clients and consequently increase productivity. Field service management software is often used across platforms, on mobile devices and accessible through web interfaces. Client dashboards can often be customized to display custom forms or notifications such as traffic updates, weather updates or check-ins. With high demand for synchronization and import/export functions, FSM software is mostly based around a central database. Advanced solutions offer GPS-tracking, auto-dispatching and offline reporting.
- Group Management: In most industries work is split by departments or teams to increase efficiency through specialization. Group management software can help improve multiple team management processes, and increase efficiency across a range of divisions or departments with more than a couple of members per sub-group. Basic and simple solutions generally focus on allowing multi-user management to be assigned to predetermined roles, rights and responsibilities (for example for file system access). Advanced software features dashboards to manage larger user groups, help structure and standardize employee onboarding and collaboration tools (like chat systems, workflow management, feedback systems and social network integration).
- Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC): Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) software is used for audit management, evidence management, automated reporting, exporting and archiving of compliance and risk related data. This type of software increases efficiently in dealing with regulatory requirements and specializes in automatic threat identification to reduce compliance related costs, penalties and downtimes. Since risk mitigation and compliance have become a primary business goals in many industries, digital assistants and support systems have become invaluable. Most GRC applications feature a controlling suite or dashboard for KPI tracking with the option of custom notifications and risk levels. They tend to support compliance tracking, deadline alerts, status notifications about overdue returns and outstanding deliverables. Advanced compliance and risk focused software products offer incident and accident recording to aid in investigation processes.
- Inventory Management: Often used in industrial, manufacturing and whole/resale organizations, inventory management software enables users to manage stock. Inventory management applications help warehouse managers streamline automated purchasing, stock level reporting and order management (through GPS tracking, low stock level notifications or barcode support). Advanced solutions include features like multi-warehouse support, real time GPS data and support for group/bulk purchasing. Inventory management software can also assist with product and category management, automate cost calculation and often integrates with product information management and supply chain management systems (ERP, SCP, WMS, etc.).
- Order Management: Order management software is designed to support stock management efforts. Often used in e-commerce, mobile shopping and multi vendor environments, order management is closely related to inventory management, as both fields tend to overlap. However, order management is more heavily geared towards the outgoing aspect of stock management and helps vendors keep track of stock levels with low stock notifications, analyses and reports on popular products, computer-assisted customer data capture and automated category management. Common users are online retailers, stock or warehouse managers, merchants and even small shops offering product delivery.
- Procurement: Procurement processes are highly regulated and automated. Procurement software assists users in navigating this terrain with highly specific functions like workflow generators, bidding assistants, ad-hoc value analysis or RFI, RFQ and RFP automation. Procurement software is often seen as a sub domain of the acquisition and sourcing department. Streamlined and optimized purchase orders help realize process efficiencies and as a result cost savings. Integration with ERP, inventory management or financial planning solutions is usually available for larger solutions. Generally procurement software helps to reduce miscommunication, control document handling, track supplier performance and minimize purchasing cycle times while maximising margins and profit on purchase orders.
- Product Information Management (PIM): Supporting warehouse and stock managers, product information management software (PIMS) largely consists of inventory type databases of products and parts along with descriptions, metrics and identification data for each item. PIMS helps to acquire, edit, maintain, manage and publish this data. Automated data collection from databases can enrich existing entries with media files and updated / corrected information. Additionally, many products support batch-processing for localization, classification or rebranding. Advanced Product Information Management software applications support filtering for duplicates, wording suggestion features, variant source management (like ERPs, printed materials and online files), crawling practices, writing style harmonization features and channel adaptation. Many PIM software products today display quality and completeness indicators as visual aids for marketers to help increase customer conversions.
- Product Management: Used by product managers, product management software equips users to define and communicate their product strategy in order to maximize revenue and build a better product. Through methods of organization, product management software allows users to capture and manage their product ideas or vision, establish product requirements and build a roadmap. Product management software helps users organize bugs, work, improvements and tasks to be completed. The software applications have features that allow users to track high-level requirements to establish which tasks should take priority to take your product from inception to release. Product managers can use the software to calculate an estimated timeframe for completion and communicate this with cross-functional teams, breaking down the silos to create a better product by working on the most important features first and ensuring they’re delivered on time.
- Professional Services Automation (PSA): Generally used in highly regulated and/or structured industries and legal environments professional services automation (PSA) software aims to reduce manual workload for auditors, contract reviewers, testers and attorneys/solicitors. PSA applications allow users to generate workflows and streamline testing or reviewing processes. This helps bring visibility to highly complex projects and is a specialised alternative to common and general project management solutions that feature document management or automation functionality. Sometimes Professional Services Automation software is used in specific industries with need for customization to optimize service delivery for repetitive manual processes (for example information technology services, consulting, financial and security auditing).
- Project Management: Software can be a key success factor in the management of projects. Specialized apps can help organize and streamline operations that help professionals achieve project goals quicker and more efficiently. Project management software typically focusses on workflow scheduling, deliverables tracking, events management, resource planning, task and time tracking and process optimization. Software-aided performance optimization across all business functions can significantly improve the odds of success in the management of projects.
- Resource Planning (ERP): Complex projects and high-volume manufacturing requires sophisticated solutions that bring visibility and reliability to a process. Resource planning enables users to plan out detailed workflows with part requirements, resource demands, estimated and reported task durations and allows them to take full control over the complete life-cycle of a product. The monitoring and notification functionality of RP system informs users about potentials to improve efficiencies. Resource planning applications use larger databases and generally integrate with other business software through APIs. Along with functionality for manufacturing departments RP software often offer financial and human resource modules as well.
- Supply Chain Management: To assist procurement managers with the complex task of planning and scheduling, supply chain management (SCM) software is build around the optimization of in- and outbound goods. Core functionality offered by common SCM applications are inventory or catalogue management, distribution scheduling, order/shipment tracking, customer management, invoicing and expense reporting. SCM is often used in manufacturing industries like fashion, food and construction, where web-based dashboards and mobile interfaces allow the precise coordination of planning, sourcing and pricing of materials, parts and components.
- Task Management: A core component of project management with plenty of software options available is task management. Task management software often features the ability to assign work / tasks to users or whole teams, create subtasks and gives teams the ability to share the workload and collaborate. In most applications tasks can be viewed in a cascading fashion or in a timeline style with deadlines and progress tracking. Task management software can range from simple to-do-lists to highly functional tasks management platforms with multi-user capabilities and extensive custom-field items that enable advanced features like file attachments, tasks exporting and task categorization.
- Time Management: Focusing on the time aspect of task and project management, time management applications provide users with the ability to schedule appointments or meetings and increase productivity. Time management software often aims to reduce procrastination, increase progress visibility and help people “get things done”. This is achieved via features like reminders and alarms, due dates and time slotting. Recording and time tracking for employees and shift scheduling tools are available for higher level management solutions to organize and measure varying types of activity.
- Warehouse & Dispatch: In contrast to RP and SCM software (see above) warehouse and dispatch software focuses on helping stock managers optimize their inventory and outgoing stock activities rather than supporting the whole supply chain and other departments. To do this, warehouse and dispatch applications feature multi-warehouse support, remote supplier access, crew dispatching, customer and fleet management, shipment and part tracking, storekeeper scheduling and packaging. Warehouse and dispatch software often integrates with applications like Vend, Shopify and Salesforce. One of the main goals of warehouse and dispatch software is to deliver dynamic inventory intelligence for better operational control.
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