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Technology is continuously evolving leading to automation of most tasks in businesses. A successful business will require the elimination of wasteful practices and procedures to better control the quality and costs. Workflow and business process management (BPM) are critical in ensuring a business remain competitive and adds value to the customers. What are the major differences between the two?


Defining Workflow and BPM

Workflow is basically a task management that involves defining the key steps in the task. It facilitates monitoring of results from a series of steps that have to be completed sequentially. The three types of workflow management are rules-driven, sequential and state machine.

Business Process Management (BPM) is a large system of processes with multiple workflows. It involves continuous monitoring and evaluation of the different workflows. It identifies any challenge in the system and improves the processes. BPM works towards activating processes and systems that work together for exemplary end-results and profit margins. Though many people use the two terms interchangeably, they have several major differences.



Workflow main role is to align processes with organization goals and ensure there is no inefficiency. A business may opt to use workflow software rather than a checklist. The software monitors what is happening in real time, employee in-charge and identify any problem. Such software is easily understood by an average employee. It can also be integrated with other tools.

Conversely, BPM software is complex and requires engineers tinker for coding and integration. It also calls for IT specialists and analysts for it to be effective. BPM software is custom-made to meet corporate needs and thus a company needs to link with the service provider.


Coordination and Management Tools

Business process management coordinates interactions across all resources and departments. BPM systems can be used in dissimilar entities to accomplish the objectives and goals of a particular business. In dealing with machines, human, information, and systems, BPM is more involved in mapping, modeling and improving business processes.

Workflow management tools coordinate the interaction between people and systems. It organizes individuals and documents by outlining specific roles and ensuring steps are followed in the right order and at the right time. The system may be used to just automate steps in a process.


Workflow management and business process management are distinct but enable efficiency and continuous improvement of a business. When choosing between the two systems, one should understand the needs of their business and the characteristics of the systems.


Ryan Krutzig is a seasoned sales and operations professional based in Minnesota. Read more of his business advice or check out his Twitter!