Imagine you are in an airplane that is about to land. In your cockpit, the pilot just had to ask the control tower permission to do so. Permission granted, a team is put in place on the ground. As a passenger, you notice that there is a sequence of procedures that take place to get the plane back to the ground. For example, a warning is given for passengers to return their seats to the upright position. The flight attendant walks down the aisle checking seats and trays.
At the airport where the plane will land, there is also a sequence to be followed, and besides this specific landing, there are other procedures going on such as takeoffs, maintenances, and refueling. Data is needed to improve the operation for each of these procedures. For example: How long does it take for the passengers to disembark? What about boarding? What is the percentage of delay in take-offs? Is the delay caused by the high flow of passengers at the airport, or by each company’s procedures?
In our airplane example:
- The workflow is the sequential procedures that occurred for our plane to land (pilot notifies airport, captain notifies crew, stewardess checks seats and tray);
- The entire landing operation, however, was managed by processes at the airport, since for a landing to occur it’s necessary to check air traffic and if there is space on the runway. In other words, it’s something way more complex and requires a more structured approach.
We gave this example so that you can better understand a topic that has been causing a lot of confusion: what are the differences between BPM and Workflow? Or, again: aren’t BPM and Workflow the same thing after all?
What is Workflow?
Workflow is a sequence of activities with the goal of providing an overview of a process to reduce inefficiencies, monitor results, and incorporate automation. In addition, it serves to align processes with business objectives and systematize how documents and tasks are completed and executed for quality and/or compliance reasons.
Workflow transforms the way every company executes processes, activities, tasks, policies, and procedures. It happens this way because workflow management software allows you to set up and monitor a sequence of tasks, usually in the form of a diagram. Most of the time these diagrams are not detailed but provide enough information for instructions to be followed and tasks to be efficiently executed.
To make another analogy, a workflow would be like the steps to make a cake, but not the whole process of assembling it, packaging it, and so on. Thus, we say that workflow is the tip of the iceberg when compared to the BPM discipline.
What is BPM?
BPM stands for Business Process Management. It’s a methodology that constantly evaluates changes and improvements in various aspects of a process.
As we mentioned in the article What is Process Management (BPM) and what are its benefits?, BPM aims to achieve the objectives of organizations through improvements in management and control methods, techniques, and tools for analyzing, modeling, publishing, improving, and controlling processes.
Similarities between BPM and Workflow
To understand the relationship between BPM and Workflow, we have to address the similarities between them. By the definitions we just gave, both are used to improve company processes, because both see value in the process as a whole. In addition, BPM and Workflow are about tasks, automation, and data transfer.
Notice that the BPM methodology is similar to workflow. But, as they say: one thing is one thing, another thing is another thing.
Ok, so what are the differences between BPM and Workflow?
We understand the concepts of BPM and Workflow. So, for starters, we can say that workflow is an essential cog, but it is only one of the many components that make up a process.
A workflow is related to a sequence of activities that can be manual or automated (software-based) procedures. On the other hand, Business Process Management is related to the execution and management of business processes.
BPM incorporates multiple workflows, automation tools, and human capital. A BPM software makes all the cogs work together – and in harmony – to create an optimal, efficient, and more agile end result. Unlike Workflow, Business Process Management has the ability to coordinate multiple activities and processes in an integrated way.
Workflow is a simple automation tool for directing tasks to the responsible users. A BPM solution takes a more structured approach, while workflow automation is just one piece of the whole puzzle.
If you need to automate or organize a simple process in your department, workflow is the way to go. However, if your department has several interconnected processes, you will need to manage multiple workflows, forms, notifications, reports, and more, the answer, in this case, will be a BPM.
Does this mean we have to choose between BPM and Workflow?
The answer is no. Understanding the differences between BPM and Workflow is essential so that you don’t get confused and end up thinking that both terms are the same. However, instead of thinking of BPM vs. Workflow, think of both operating together.
The most indicated is to bet on a BPM platform, such as Fusion, which will provide all the functionalities of a workflow system added to the additional features that manage all the company’s processes, improving the organizational level.
To learn more about BPM, we invite you to read our articles:
- What is Process Management (BPM) and what are its benefits?
- How BPM leverages your management systems (ERPs)
If you would like to know more about BPM and Workflow, please contact us. It will be a pleasure to help you! Feel free to share this article with your colleagues. Until next time!