When it comes to BPM, workflows are a part of the discussion, but the two processes posses a lot of differences. Here, we will break down the meaning of BPM, workflows and automation so that you can better understand how they all work together to optimise a business’ performance.
A workflow is an overview of a set of tasks that make up a process to achieve an end result. Workflows show how all tasks come together to support a unified goal.
Workflows provide an organisation with a view of how tasks are completed, the documents that may be needed, and how automation can play a role in carrying out the work.
Workflows also offer a way for organisations to spot inefficiencies and make improvements. An automation software tool can be implemented within a workflow to carry out certain steps of the process for streamlining purposes.
BPM stands for business process management. Business process management consists of multiple workflows. The entire purpose of BPM is to improve the core business as it incorporates budgets, analytics, automation tools, human resources, technology, etc.
The easiest way to think of BPM is to consider an organisation as a system. In essence, every aspect within the system that works towards creating the end result (i.e. delivering value to customers) falls under business process management.
Rather than focusing on a process specifically, BPM offers a lens by which to evaluate business processes in order to improve upon them. Then, BPM covers what needs to be done to implement changes to achieve process improvement.
Okay, so both workflows and BPM include processes and achieving goals. Hence, there’s a lot of confusion involved in knowing how to separate the two.
To make it a bit easier, let’s consider a few analogies that might help to make the two definitions more clear.
If you’ve ever taken a road trip, then you know that you have a lot of considerations. You have to make sure you have enough gas (which comes along with figuring out your average miles per gallon and the miles you’ll travel), choosing what time to leave, and knowing how to get from point A to point B.
These are workflows (literally and figuratively taking you from here to there).
BPM would be if you’re the traffic controller that has to analyse traffic patterns, optimising traffic light signals in real-time, and helping to design the roads in order to make road trips more pleasant. As you can see, BPM is the oversight that encompasses the people, systems, technologies, etc. that make workflows happen.
On your road trip, you might get hungry and want to stop at a food truck along your journey. A food truck has to manage all the logistics, from having enough ingredients, to ensuring there’s enough gas in their tank, to having the right amount of staff to keep up with hungry customers’ demands. That’s all business process management.
But, now, when it’s time for the chef to assemble a mouth-watering taco, there's workflows involved. The chef knows how much meat to lettuce ratio, when to put the sauce on the tortilla, and how to pass it to the customer’s hands without dropping it. The end goal is achieved, a tasty taco in the hands of a satisfied customer, all thanks to workflows that guide the way.
Thinking of taking a long road trip and finding tacos? You’re probably still hungry for more information first.
Our blog’s workflow is going to deliver by offering some more similarities and differences between the two concepts.
Just like BPM and workflows are different, so is BPM software and workflow software (naturally).
Workflow management software provides you with options for optimising workflows. For example, you can link it to other software, create conditional steps, or make parallel paths so one workflow can mimic another.
BPM tools provide a broad picture of the organisation’s inner workings. It will likely include workflow features, but also offer ways to organise datasets, support advanced reporting, and the ability to monitor all processes from a single dashboard.
Now that you know what BPM software and workflow software can do, which should you focus your efforts on?
Well, the answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re looking for a way to automate a single process, then workflow management software is going to be enough. If information flow is what drives a process, then workflow management is likely going to be what you need.
For example, financial automation solutions can be used to automate tasks from end-to-end in order to streamline them, reduce costs, and minimise mistakes that occur from human error. They also provide audit trails.
But, if you want to improve upon an entire process and the ways by which it carries out multiple processes, then you’ll need business process management tools.
Before we close out the article, let’s summarise the high-level differences between workflow automation and business process management one last time to clear up any lingering questions.
As you may have deduced by now, workflow automation sits under the umbrella of business process management. Since BPM oversees how a company’s tools, systems, processes, and people all come together to achieve business goals, it’s no wonder why workflow automation would be a part of these systems.
BPM can give you a look at how processes work together across departments within an organisation to achieve optimal results.
For example, a financial automation solution will be able to conduct account reconciliations for you within your accounting department. Based on this process, financial statements are developed.
Then, financial statements are used by the executive team to make decisions on how to allocate resources. These statements are also likely to be shared with sales and marketing teams to understand where revenue currently stands so the team can understand how and where to focus efforts to meet sales goals.
BPM, workflows, and automation should all be considered when looking to optimise the ways by which you achieve organisational goals. Automation software is useful to run workflows from start to finish so that humans can focus their time on value-add initiatives like strategy and analysis.
Looking to get a payment reconciled with accuracy and convenience? Check out how the process works and how automation makes it easier.
Want to learn more about billing reconciliation? We share everything you need to know and look at how invoice reconciliation software helps.