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BPM, Process Management, Process Automation, Workflow Management: What is the Difference?

May 3
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Managing and monitoring business processes shouldn’t be taken lightly. In fact, it’s more important than what you might think. Reliable, repeatable processes take time to map, build, and test, but the ROI is well worth its weight in gold.

There are a number of terms used to describe business process management. Process management, process automation, workflow management—what’s the difference? Is there a difference, or are they just fancy words that all mean the same thing?

Believe it or not, there are differences between them. And in this article, we will explain those differences, and why each one is important for your business.

What is Business Process Management (BPM)?

At Rindle, you know how much we love giving vocabulary lessons. And here’s another one…

According to Gartner, business process management (BPM) is “a discipline that improves enterprise performance by driving operational excellence and business agility.” It involves continuously reviewing processes, identifying gaps and weaknesses, and optimizing them to ensure processes continue to work smoothly, efficiently, and drive desirable outputs or outcomes.

Here’s a good way to think about BPM:

You get into and drive your car every day, or maybe a few times per week. You rely on your car as part of your daily or weekly process for getting to and from places.

Your car is essentially a machine, and it needs a “tune up” every once in a while to ensure it continues to operate efficiently. This could include ensuring the tires are properly inflated, the spark plugs are functional, and that your engine is firing on all cylinders (literally).

BPM is a lot like this.

BPM is the process of continuously measuring, analyzing, and optimizing existing end-to-end processes and functions to ensure they continue to drive desired results, outcomes, and remain relevant. BPM is very iterative and requires ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and re-engineering.

Benefits of Business Process Management

Here are some benefits of BPM:

  • Measure performance and outputs of existing processes, delivery, and outputs
  • Increased agility (specifically adjusting and iterating on existing processes)
  • Increased adaptability to respond to and adjust to weaknesses or gaps in existing processes
  • Increased opportunities for continuous improvement (CI)
  • Increased visibility
  • Ensure compliance

What is Process Management?

This is where some confusion can arise. There is a clear difference between process management and business process management. Process management involves overseeing and monitoring all processes within a team, department, or organization. It focuses on what each process is designed to accomplish, who is accountable for its outcome, and what activities need to be completed. All in all, process management is about doing things repeatedly.

Business process management takes things one step further and focuses on optimizing those processes that fall under the “process management” umbrella.

Benefits of Process Management

Here are some benefits of process management:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Improved quality
  • Improved team and staff productivity
  • Ability to identify and mitigate risks, silos, and bottlenecks

What is Process Automation?

Now that you understand the differences between business process management and process management are, and why and how both are important, let’s talk about process automation. Process automation involves identifying some processes that could be more efficient, and automating them. This means putting them on “autopilot”, or setting the “cruise control” button, with little human intervention, if any at all.

Process automation typically involves using technology to automate specific business processes and workflows. The end goals of automation tend to be reducing costs while increasing productivity.

Benefits of Process Automation

Here are some benefits of process automation:

  • Reduce operational costs
  • Reduce errors
  • Increase efficiency and quality
  • Improve team member morale
  • Increase team productivity
  • Deliver better customer experiences
  • Save time
  • Establish a level of governance and accountability

What is Workflow Management?

Before you can really wrap your head around workflow management, it’s important to know that many people often use the words workflow and process interchangeably. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it can lead to miscommunications. All in all the two are slightly different.

A workflow is a mapped, documented series of steps necessary to achieve a goal that is repeatable, recurrent, and operational.

A process is a set of activities that includes the workflow and other factors, such as people, tools, and reports. Workflows tend to be more predictable and orderly, making them easier to automate.

Workflow management is the discipline that focuses on the structure of work, and essentially how teams collaborate to complete this work. Despite some beliefs, workflow management doesn’t have to require software, but using workflow management tools can help automate specific workflows.

Benefits of Workflow Management

Here are some benefits of workflow management:

  • Increase operational efficiency
  • Streamline processes and workflows
  • Improve team productivity and output
  • Maintain a competitive advantage

Where Do You Go From Here?

We threw a lot of information at you in this article, and we know what you’re probably thinking: Now what? How do I take this information and apply it to my own business? Where do I start?

To begin mapping, building, and optimizing your processes, here are the steps you can follow to approach this endeavor:

Step 1: Set Goals. Goal-setting should be the first step before taking the time to map out processes, optimize existing processes, and investing in workflow management software. Your process and workflow goals should be aligned with the business’ higher-level goals.

Step 2: Define Roles. Be as clear as possible when assigning and communicating specific roles for specific workflows and processes so the entire team is on the same page as to who is working on what, and who is responsible for what.

Step 3: Map it out. Draw or map out what an ideal process and workflow would look like for your team.

Step 4: Design and build processes and workflows. Although this seems like the most complicated, it is actually the easiest step. Once you’ve worked through the steps above, this step involves choosing the best tools, systems, and tactics that pull all the pieces together.

Step 5: Document. In our experience, this step is often skipped or overlooked altogether. Don’t make this mistake! You’ve put all that effort into building your processes and workflows, so by documenting them you are also creating resources and guides for new hires and resources.

Step 6: Iterate, optimize, and improve. So, you finally designed, built, and documented all your new processes and workflows. Phew! Your work is done, right? Wrong. As client and business needs shift, it’s important to audit and optimize your existing processes and workflows to ensure they are still working and meeting your teams’ and clients’ needs.

This step should be an ongoing, iterative process. Meet with or schedule a call with your team once per month to review existing processes and workflows, and figure out what is working best and what isn’t, and look for ways to improve them.

Invest in Business Process Management Software

If you know it’s time for your business to improve, grow, and scale, and you need to build or improve your processes to do so, then it’s also time to invest in business process management or workflow management tools to help you get there.

Rindle is a highly robust workflow management that is easy to set up and use and without a huge learning curve—and no coding or development needed! Rindle can help you get on the path to better processes, better management, and better business. Give it a try for free today. Or check out the Rindle eBook for additional information!