Business Process Management (BPM) and workflow do not mean the same, despite the fact that these concepts are very often used interchangeably. The problem with distinguishing one from the other mainly results from the fact that at the early stage of development BPM solutions focused on workflow management. However, today workflow has become one of BPM’s components, which is a much broader solution comprising many elements. So what is the difference between workflow and Business Process Management?
What is Business Process Management (BPM) and what does it involve?
Business Process Management refers to managing business processes. This is the approach to managing an enterprise that uses various methods of optimisation, analysis, improvement, and automation of business processes. It is mainly aimed at leading to a situation, when an organisation using it operates effectively and all in-house processes are performed in an optimal and maximally efficient manner. Business processes are the heart and brain of every organisation and proper management thereof offers many benefits to the company manifested in, among others, a form of saving time, reducing costs and increasing the company’s productivity. They can be divided into two groups: core processes for the company’s operations and supporting processes, disruption of which hinders the organisation’s operations, yet, does not prevent them.
BPM uses proper programme tools and services which allow automation, analysis, monitoring and ongoing improvement of business processes in the company in terms of improving effectiveness thereof and reducing costs. Skilful management of business processes is crucial for each organisation’s operations since business processes occur at almost every step of the organisation’s activity from invoicing to promotions shared with clients in real-time. Business processes and skillful management thereof is aimed at improving customer service, as well as effective and efficient cooperation among particular organisation’s structures. Moreover, BPM allows increasing companies’ productivity and reducing the costs of their operations, which has a positive impact on their competitiveness and market position.
The essence of workflow, that is, workflow in business process management
Workflow is a manner of managing a team of employees and tasks assigned thereto, in which flows, roles of the persons engaged in the process and the sequence of activities that should be performed have been defined and automated. The flow of information exchanged between entities participating in processing thereof constitutes an important aspect of workflow, which is related to managing and providing access to valid data and documents used by employees in the performance of a specific process.
Workflow management is mainly used for operational purposes and allows specifying what has to be done at a particular moment and by whom. Currently, workflow is the most popular manner to manage a team, which organises the flow of tasks and documents occurring in the business process. Workflow management is executed via special workflow systems which allow management, digitalisation and automation thereof. It allows to take simple, routine activities of the employees’ shoulders and to have them handled by relevant mechanisms (e.g. with the use of OCR or AI elements).
Workflow systems give enterprises and organisations the possibility to define and control activities related to in-house business processes. Many of the tools available on the market give the possibility to measure and analyse particular processes, which allows ongoing improvement and enhancement thereof, as well as increasing their performance. Workflow management system can operate independently or can be integrated with other IT systems operating in the company, including business process management (BPM) systems. Combining their functionalities allows better and more complex management of organisation’s structures and in-house processes.
BPM workflow – what are the differences?
Business Process Management is a concept much broader than workflow. Whereas BPM mainly focuses on processes’ optimisation (including also those comprising the workflow), workflow deals solely with the organisation of workflow within processes and does not require connecting it with the BPM. On the other hand, process management usually uses certain workflow elements. The difference between BPM and workflow is clearly visible also in the case of using both solutions. Business process management is mainly used for strategic purposes and is to answer the question, which processes work well and which require improvement and enhancement; whereas, workflow is primarily used for operational purposes and is aimed at stipulating what has to be done at a given moment and by whom.
In contrast to workflow, BPM is a solution, which is more comprehensiveness-oriented, where all process components must be taken into consideration. On the other hand, workflow predominantly focuses on accuracy and precise definition of each activity, condition, and attribute. The difference between BPM and workflow is clearly visible also with regard to the level of complexity of implementation of both solutions. BPM is significantly more difficult and time-consuming with regard to the implementation, since it requires monitoring process indicators, combining systems and placing a burden on resources. Whereas, workflow, which usually concerns one process, is faster and easier to implement.
The most innovative, advanced low-code platforms to automate processes and develop business applications successfully combine functionalities and advantages of BPM and workflow systems.