BPM vs Workflow, the difference is easy to understand

8 minutes

BPM, workflow, process… all these words are relatively close. But there’s a minimum amount of learning you’ll need to do if you want to shine in business meetings or take advantage of it on your projects.

In the first part of this article, we’ll explain the difference between BPM and Workflow, and give some concrete examples.

Then, in the second part, we’ll look at BPM and Workflow software solutions.

Finally, in the third part, we’ll show you how to make the right choice from among all the softwares.

BPM Business Process Management, Workflow, Apps, Data, People, Optimization

The distinction between Business Process Management and Workflow Management?

Why are BPM and Workflow often considered synonymous?

  • They are tools for optimizing work. They make it easy to identify frictions and implement solutions,
  • They can be used universally, in any industry, whatever the size of the company,
  • Unlike the word process, which is a business semantic, BPM and Workflow relate to the use of software.

What is a workflow?

Workflow management explained

Imagine a business process like “creating a quote”. This process involves several stages, such as getting customer needs, producing a quotation, validation by the manager, and presentation to the customer.

Let’s imagine that only the validation of the quotation by the manager does not involve the use of IT tools, for example, validation is carried out in a meeting. This process then consists of two workflows:

  • the first workflow from getting the customer needs to the quotation production,
  • the second workflow is the presentation of the quotation to the customer.

A workflow is simply the continuous use of software tools to carry out specific steps in a process. Each software discontinuity terminates the workflow.

A process is a set of actions, software and workflows.

For simplification purposes, and to avoid the accumulation of workflows in a single process, “software-free” steps are often virtualized and simulated to group together several workflows.

Workflow example: document validation

In contrast to the previous paragraph, we’re going to present an example that’s widely used in companies: document validation workflows.

  • An employee produces a document and integrates it into validation software
  • This document is automatically sent to the manager, who reviews it and makes comments.
  • The manager returns the document to the employee for modification.
  • The employee is automatically notified by e-mail, modifies the document and sends it back to his manager.
  • The manager validates the document, which continues its journey

Workflow benefits: Reporting, Automation, Optimization and Improvement

In addition to guaranteeing that all the players in a company carry out different tasks through one or more software programs, workflow also brings other benefits:

  • Generate data for automated reporting: processing times, deadlines, number of documents produced, number of round trips, number of interactions, etc.
  • Automated tasks such as notifications, alerts, data entry in other software applications
  • Identification of bottlenecks or friction points, enabling rapid implementation of optimizations

What is BPM (Business Process Management)?

BPM explained

Unlike workflows, which sequence a number of tasks within an activity, BPM operates in a more holistic way.It provides aprecise illustration of how a company, a department or a serviceoperates

Business Process Management maps out all the activities involved in delivering a product or service. A BPM is therefore made up of multiple processes, themselves made up of multiple workflows in different departments of a company. It represents interactions, data transfers, software, systems, players, inventories, budgets… all along the operational value chain to be studied.

If you need to go further, you can find the theoretical definition by following this link.

Example: the process involved in creating a training course

In this example, BPM will be used to map all the activities involved in delivering a sustainable training program. The following processes and players are included in this mapping:

  • Market scoping with marketing teams
  • Budgeting with finance
  • Framing the content and form with the educational engineers
  • Validation of training by management
  • Building the training product with editors, designers and the IS department
  • Selling with salespeople
  • Product improvement with customer service and trainers

The BPM will map all :

  • CRM
  • LMS
  • Office Suite
  • CMS
  • Graphics software
  • Billing system
  • Payment system
  • Form tools…

All along the way. BPM software automatically collects data, information and interactions throughout the value chain, such as :

  • Staffing and lead times
  • Budget consumption
  • Progress reports
  • Expenses
  • Inventories
  • Sales achieved…
BPM Business Process Management - data, stocks, people, apps, activities

The results of using Business Process Management

Once the BPM has been implemented, quality and performance analyses can be carried out. This operational inventory can give different results such as :

  • Identifying frictions such as bottlenecks, repetitive tasks, inefficiencies, convoluted sequences, non-value-added tasks and so on.
  • Factualization of work times and deadlines by activity and process
  • Identifying vulnerabilities and risks
  • Compliance and quality
  • Automation opportunities
  • Verify process alignment with organizational and strategic objectives

What’s the difference between BPM, BPMN and BPMS?

BPM (Business Process Management) is a tool for discovering, modeling, analyzing, measuring, improving, optimizing and automating business processes.

BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) is an international standard for graphically modeling business processes. ( wikipedia definition).

BPMS (Business Process Management Suite) is an application suite made up of multiple bricks enabling BPM, in particular workflow creation and automation.

Conclusion: what’s the difference between BPM and workflow?

A workflow represents the completion of one or more tasks in a computerized activity, whereas BPM maps all the activities of a company via dedicated software.

Workflow management therefore has a local impact, while Business Process Management has a global impact.

Which BPM or workflow software should you choose?

The theoretical vision

Theoretically, workflow software and Business Process Management software are totally different.

Workflow software can be used to orchestrate all or part of a business process. These programs offer numerous components, such as data entry, integration with your existing software, messaging modules, tracking / reporting tools, automation tools, extranets or intranets…

BPM software enables you to map your entire operation by identifying, orchestrating and visualizing multiple data flows. They also include a wide range of functions, including workflow tools and dashboards…

In practice, the tendency is to pay for BPM software to do nothing but workflow.

Setting up workflow software doesn’t necessarily require the creation of a dedicated project. In general, these are NoCode and LowCode tools that don’t necessarily require any prerequisites or skills. In just a few minutes, you can easily test them, compare them and choose the best one for your needs. If you’d like to test our Lapala workflow platform in just a few minutes.

BPM software is often marketed as workflow software. Choosing BPM software when you want workflow software can have a negative impact, as these tools are more complex and much more expensive.

Because BPM is holistic and complete, it requires a real approach that goes beyond choosing BPM software:

  • Setting up the project and identifying a dedicated team
  • Definition of timetable, budget and operational objectives
  • Take stock of the company’s operations (identify flows, teams, stocks, data, business software, etc.).
  • Construction of a first version of the business process map (drawing, diagram, etc.)
  • Search for BPM software. In general, it is necessary to produce a specification and submit it to software publishers. They’ll be able to give you the right answer, enabling you to compare the best projects.
  • Create a definitive project plan and launch the project. This project plan must be methodical and iterative. It is advisable to launch experiments on representative perimeters. Then, in a second phase, to generalize the method to all processes.

So, depending on the size and complexity of your operation, this project may take several months or years.

How to choose the best BPM Workflow?

If processes are no secret to the project manager, and the management team understands the stakes of a BPM

No questions asked, we recommend that you implement a BPM approach as described above. You can call on external service providers to advise you or organize the process. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help.

If the management team understands the challenges of a BPM, but the project manager is new to the subject

There are two possibilities.

Allow the project manager time to develop his or her skills in these areas. This increase in skills must nevertheless have an operational impact on the company. For the learning process to be as effective as possible, it needs to start by transforming initial processes using workflow software such as Lapala. Once this has been done, you can frame a BPM approach and look for BPM software by following the above procedure.

Enlist the support of a service provider to help frame and design the approach. He will implement the experiments and gradually hand over to the project manager, who will have taken advantage of the service providers to increase his skills and autonomy in this area. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help.

If the processes are new to the project manager, or the management team doesn’t understand what’s at stake

In this case, we would initially advise against a BPM approach. Our advice is to start by setting up workflows for specific business processes. As you experiment, you’ll gain in maturity, and one day you’ll be able to implement a BPM approach. If you’d like to test our Lapala workflow platform in just a few minutes.

Now you know all about BPM and Workflow. Now it’s your turn! See you soon for more content!


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