OCTOBER 7, 2019

Business Process Management vs Workflow Management.

By Shane Reid

Business Process Management vs Workflow Management: What’s the Difference?

Business process management and workflow management are often confused by business owners (and for good reason: there are similar concepts involved). But while there is some conceptual overlap between the two systems, they serve quite different purposes. If a business can take advantage of both systems, it’s one step closer to grappling the Process Beast.

The first step to tackling Process is knowing the difference between process management and workflow management. This article will break down differences, highlight the advantages of each, and provide a few bonus tips and tools along the way. Look out, Process Beast – we’re coming for you.

What is business process management?

Let’s start with business processes. What are they? Business processes are the sums of the tasks taking place across your business. For example, client relationship management is a business process.

Each process is made up of smaller tasks (or phases). In the client relationship management example, sending out a welcome letter might be a part of your business’s process. Another phase could be goal setting or going over possible outcomes with your client.

Any task you undertake at work, whether it’s emailing a form to a client, training a new staff member or testing a piece of software, is likely part of a larger process.

Business process management refers to the way these processes are carried out.

How are they?

  • Designed
  • Implemented
  • Executed
  • Tested
  • Analysed
  • Updated

Why is business process management important?

Ever found yourself in a new role and had no idea what to do? Or maybe you’ve lost a much-needed manual in a dusty old filing cabinet. If these situations sound familiar, you know how frustrating it is to lose track of processes.

Business process management is critical in ensuring your practice does what it should, how it should. It defines what happens within a business, how it happens and who is responsible. In short, BPM serves as the instruction manual for your business.

For the business to run smoothly, the BPM needs to be unwavering. The ‘instructions’ remain the same each time a process is performed, no matter who performs it.

This makes BPM particularly valuable when:

  • A staff member leaves
  • Communication breaks down between staff members
  • A manager is absent (or inefficient)

Clear management guidelines ensure:

  • Processes are achieved within a set timeframe
  • Processes are achieved within budget
  • All client needs are addressed
  • Staff members have a reference point for expectations
  • Performance is always improving
  • New systems are properly integrated

What is workflow management?

Workflow describes the way business processes happen. Are they automated? Are they manually (or digitally) delegated? When one business process ends, what triggers the next business process? Tasks, phases and processes need to flow smoothly from one to the next. The management of that flow is workflow management.

What are the advantages of workflow management?

Let’s look at this from the other side: what good are processes if they come to a standstill at phase one? None at all.

How one task or phase ends and the next begins is critically important for the process to run smoothly. Tools and software are often used to automate processes and smooth the transition from one phase or process to another.

The advantages of a workflow management system include:

  • Save time spent delegating
  • Reduce risk of miscommunication between staff
  • Peace of mind that processes can run smoothly without interference
  • Discover and address workflow bottlenecks

Which one is best for your business?

Business process management vs workflow management: which is best? It’s a common (and simple) question. And the simple truth is that the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there’s a solid argument to be made that it’s important to have both a sturdy business process management plan AND an efficient workflow management plan.

Improving BPM and workflow

Several aspects of the business come into consideration when improving BPM and workflow. People, policy, data and systems work like cogs within the business – get each right and your firm can run like clockwork.


People are essential to workflow – after all, it’s your team members who will be carrying out the process tasks within your business and the managers who will be overseeing it all. Regular training, opportunities for feedback and open lines of communication are a good place to start.

Policy and direction

Without policies, there are no processes. As well as supporting safe, efficient processing, policies can help, set timeframes, define how tasks are carried out, clarify responsibilities, and create a culture conducive to efficient, safe completion of processes.

Data and systems

  • Data management and system solutions can improve workflow by automating:
  • Client response emails
  • Form submission/receipt
  • Email and text notifications
  • Send documents to be signed
  • Import files
  • Read documents and capture data with OCR technology
  • Schedule events
  • Pay due accounts
  • Delegate work and tasks

How does your BPM look?

Does it glide smoothly from one process into the next? Does it run like a shiny new wristwatch? Or perhaps it’s more like an old, rusty one with a continually- twitching second hand. If you find yourself too busy carrying out processes to properly manage them, it’s time to get in touch. Book a free consult with one of Umlaut’s experts – we’ll get your workflow running like clockwork again (the shiny, new kind).

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