Understanding the Difference Between Workflow and Business Process

20 Jun, 2021 | Blogs

People working with Business Process Management often hear terms like workflow and processes. These terms are often interchangeably used, even though they are theoretically very different. In this blog, we will look at the two concepts and try to explain the basic difference between workflow and business processes.


To understand the difference between workflow and business processes, it is important to first define these two concepts. A business process is defined as a sequence of activities executed by a business to deliver or create a product or complete certain functions.

Workflow, on the other hand, involves evaluating a business process to further enhance it for the future. Workflow can also refer to tools and technologies that a business deploys as part of improving the process. Workflow can help lower data transfer errors, process failures, bottlenecks as well as time delays and gains and increase procedure accuracy and reliability.

Often a process is referred to as a top-down list of to-dos, while a workflow is considered the exact tasks a team member needs to complete. Some people refer to workflow as “the automated process.”  While there is no right or wrong since there is no set-in-stone definition for these terms, there are theoretical differences between the two. Let us look a the top 6 differences between workflow and business processes.

Top 6 Differences Between Workflow and Processes

Here is a small summary that highlights some common differences between workflow and business processes.

  1. To begin with, a process is a series of activities, while a workflow is a technique to make the process more efficient.
  2. A process exists naturally with the business and flows intuitively. A workflow, in contrast, is carefully planned, analyzed, modeled, and automated with a well-defined intent.
  3. A process usually involves team coordination and communication to deliver the desired result. Workflow is a technology that helps to achieve the desired outcome in the best possible way.
  4. Not all processes are automated, while workflow software is used to automate processes.
  5. Workflow is a result of an existing process. It is a part of BPM. Therefore, a process can exist without a workflow, but a workflow cannot exist without a process.
  6. Workflow is tactical as it focuses on getting the job done . In contrast, a business process is strategic as it focuses on achieving a business goal.

Also Read: Business Process Automation: Understanding the Difference Between BPA, RPA and BPM

To understand better, let us look at an example of a workflow. Timesheet approval is a process that nearly exists in all organizations. The process begins with employees entering the number of hours worked. Sophisticated teams already have a template that automatically pre-populates all the information for each team member.

A workflow in this process would be a track that goes to manager approval and, then, for payroll processing. However, for companies that provide overtime pay, another track will be required with the condition of overtime. Workflow, therefore, automates most of the manager’s tasks and speeds up the process. It triggers different systems based on the predefined conditions while creating a journal entry in your ERP or financial system.

Looking to improve your business processes? Talk to us about workflows.

Despite all the confusion around these two terms, the ultimate goal of any business should be to better understand the process. That is because the better knowledge you have about the process, the more successful you will be at making significant enhancements.

Our team at Nuummite comprises business process experts who not only understand your business but come with innovative ways to further optimize it. We apply our industry-wide expertise to every project so that you can use automation more strategically in a way that brings lasting benefits to your organization.

Contact us today to know more.