Understanding Workflow Vs. Process: They are NOT The Same Thing

October 31, 2022
Alok Suman
Workflow

There are numerous words used in process management that you might already know if you're familiar with the domain. However, none of the terms have a clear, accurate meaning, making the situation even more confusing.

The terms "process" and "workflow" are the most frequently used in the industry. Keep reading to learn more about the difference between workflow vs. process. 

What is a Workflow?

The series of actions required to finish a task is known as a workflow.

Except for the first and last stages, steps in a process have a distinct step immediately before and after. In a linear workflow, an external event starts the initial step if the process is in a loop. The first step will often get restarted after the completion of the last phase.

To depict the stages involved in a process and the sequence they should proceed in, tools like charts and process maps are employed.

Flowcharts define if-then relationships using straightforward geometric symbols and arrows. Process maps are similar in appearance, but they might also contain supporting data. This information lists the materials needed for each phase.

Software tools employ business rules to determine when one phase has been completed. The next step can automate workflows. Process orchestration is a term used to describe how some workflow management applications may additionally coordinate dependent relationships between steps.

Workflow management software also offers templates for business process modeling and documentation, two critical facets of business process management (BPM).

Workflows can also be classified as manual or automated in some cases. Automated and artificial intelligence-based workflows are typical of digital workflows (AI). Manual and digital workflows are commonly referred to as system- or human-centered.

Every company, in every sector, uses business workflows. In many organizations, some follow similar, if not identical, procedures. Others are exclusive to particular businesses or industries.

In addition, workflows can be seen in every department and role within a business, from back-office operations and front-end customer support to product creation and project management.

While some workflows are unstructured, others are very structured. Business process management is guided by the abbreviation CACI, which stands for "capable, accountable, consulted, and informed," in ways relevant to the stakeholders to whom the execution of actions, tasks, and procedures is assigned to complete workflows.

What is a Process?

A process is "a sequence of steps leading to a purpose; particularly a constant operation or procedure, especially in manufacture" or "to subject to or manage through an established typically routine set of procedures."

A process in business is a series of actions that result in a particular outcome. However, the term describes how a complete system is built and organized so all its parts cooperate and support the business objectives. These elements frequently consist of various workflows for various departments, projects, goods, and so forth.

These words are related but may be used indiscriminately. A marketer may find it advantageous to conflate the ideas to persuade you to buy a solution that is too pricey and complex for your requirements.

Difference Between Workflow vs. Process

Workflow Process
A workflow consists of the recurring steps to finish a task. All the components required to complete a more significant organizational goal are referred to as a process. A top-down, comprehensive strategy for evaluating and understanding workflows' results is called a process.
The common viewpoint is that processes relate to more comprehensive results, whereas workflows account for minute details up to small-scale goals. Although this viewpoint is crucial for responsibility, it is not the most effective strategy for achieving regulatory compliance.
Process refers to how all the moving parts in your organization come together to achieve your organizational objectives. Workflow refers to how individuals collaborate to complete specific tasks.

How are Workflow and Process Connected?

The establishment and upkeep of workplace standards through first training and continuous role clarification links a workflow's intangible components to certain stakeholders' duties.

These distinctions also capture the difference between a workflow and an approval procedure. These factors influence the norms that direct workflows and support procedures.

Another place where workflows and processes come together is regulatory compliance. Every step needed from outside the company could impact a company's workflow.

  • Process models frequently accept these requirements, but the steps required for compliance can only be carried out by following best practices for actions, finishing tasks, carrying out procedures, and monitoring workflows.
  • Another way that workflows and processes are connected is through productivity. Organizations that set objectives for increasing output or efficiency must optimize each workflow step.
  • The only method to pinpoint the elements that support or hinder key performance indicators and develop plans for achieving procedural goals is to create an audit trail.
  • Automation is a strategy used at the actions, tasks, and procedures levels of sub-workflows that impact workflows and processes. Only by making adjustments at these stages can broad objectives of improving accuracy, efficiency, and total production be accomplished.

Although low-tech workarounds can sometimes be used to achieve goals, automation is the ideal strategy for pursuing comprehensive measures to cut down on busy work and completion times.

  • Automating the delivery of documents or completing, reviewing, submitting, or storing forms may be advantageous depending on organizational procedures.
  • Businesses that provide field services can gain from having a system that employees can access on digital devices other than office PCs from remote areas.
  • Practically all repetitive actions or processes may be candidates for automation, and gains in efficiency may dictate new process-level objectives for an organization.

How Can You Implement Workflows to Improve Your Processes?

An introduction step starts a workflow process by determining the required steps and how they will be carried out. Here are some ways you can implement workflows to improve your processes. 

  • Task Assignment

It is the first phase that is given to employees or outside labor. The next step is data gathering, which entails obtaining all the data required for the workflow procedure to be finished.

Problem-solving is customary in the following stage, where staff members determine whether something needs to be changed or if any barriers prevent them from doing their work.

You can use the workflow process to direct you as you complete your work. It can be used to schedule chores, set priorities, and monitor advancement.

Your ability to effectively manage your workload is the aim of the workflow process. Any business must automate workflow procedures using app integration software.

You can choose how your processes should be structured if you split your business into stages (a practice that is frequently used).

Moreover, to keep up with their workflows, companies must be able to create and distribute information. This is particularly valid when it comes to sizable teams that could collaborate on a single project.

The best workflow automation software will accommodate your team's needs and make it simpler for them to work together and complete tasks quickly.

  • Establish Your Team

Workflow management is a team sport that necessitates maintaining everyone's commitment, unity, and alignment with the overall objective so that pertinent information can flow smoothly across your team and your organization.

It is simpler to sustain that flow of data and resources so that goals may be attained with the least difficulty or guesswork when your team is aligned around a single source of truth.

  • Give Documentation and Information Exchange Top Priority

No matter how effective your workflows are, they will always perform poorly if your team has to search manually for the documents and files they need to complete the workflow stage that requires their involvement.

Besides, the typical worker spends 2.5 hours each day looking for the files and documents required to complete their work. That adds up to 2.5 months, or 30% of all productive time, spent looking for the information your team needs to do their work.

Bottom Line

Overall, both processes and workflows are significant. Therefore, you can deconstruct what is required to create effective workflows by taking the preceding actions.

You can design procedures and processes for a long time, but it doesn't guarantee that they will function or that your staff will adhere to them. It's crucial to create a culture of accountability within the team and to instill the habit of adhering to the new procedures and workflows.

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