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Seems like people are talking about workflow again, but many seem to be confusing workflow with process. So what is the difference between the two?
Max Young
Blog Writer
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Process is strategic: it defined the interaction between roles, and isn’t worried about tactics. It shows the interaction between multiple parties, regardless of the how. Process doesn’t care if you use excel, or a tablet, or if you press the red button.

Workflow is tactical, and shows the sequence of tasks, usually taken by an individual.
References
  1. http://www.capbpm.com
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 1
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
I've always considered workflow to be a piece or tool or component of a process. In my mind, process embodies not only the workflow to the business case being addressed but also the content, the integration points, the reference guides that may need to be looked at, the roles involved, etc. etc. Process is much bigger than the workflow.
Managing Director
ClearCadence, LLC
http://www.clearcadence.com
Comment
  1. Max Young
  2. 9 months ago
  3. #5183
Right! the workflow provides detail, the process diagram shows the “big picture”.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 2
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
The definition of the WfMC, back in the 90's, stated that:
Workflow is the automation of a business process, in whole or part, during which documents, information or tasks are passed from one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules.”


And they also defined:
A Business Process is a set of one or more linked procedures or activities which collectively realise a business objective or policy goal, normally within the context of an organisational structure defining functional roles and relationships.


I think these definitions are still valid and they are very clarifying. Workflow is tightly bonded with technology to automate, business process is not.

It is true that nowadays people is talking about workflow again, and I think they are using it in the right meaning, related to technologies to automate their business processes.

Best !
CEO at Flokzu Cloud BPM Suite
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 3
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Hello,
The process (business process) is a planned sequence of activities and decisions, from the customer (internal/external) request until the complete response (E2E), if aligned with business strategy, I mean, to respond to one or more corporate objectives.
The workflow should be technical process that executes/instantiates the business process, and should do it totally aligned, I mean, for each business task should correspond one technical task. To be executed, one technical task can invoke one or more technical services, e.g., in a SOA environment through an ESB.

This alignment is absolutely fundamental to ensure the TRACEABILITY, first to create the technical solution from the planned business process, then to maintain it, and then to monitoring in phase of execution, to get the real data (e.g., processing times, waiting times, operational costs, quality of delivery, operational risks, compliance, etc.), and compare to what was planned, step by step, enable to analyze the entire process, find the improvements and decide for implementation based on business cases, closing the process life cycle.

Regards,
Jose
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 4
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
I think it's a good example of "code words" for those "in the know"...

We have a habit of adopting terms to reinforce our status as "experts", and often those terms add a bit of mystery and awe for the uninitiated...

I'm buidling a "Decision Making Process" SaaS offering now, but I probably won't use that term with the general public because it'll most likely produce blank looks on their faces. Instead, I'll probably go with "Decision Making Journey", which is also a bit mysterious but hopefully engages their imaginations.

"Process" brings to mind precision. "Workflow" brings to mind people on an assembly line. "Journey", I'm hoping, brings to mind something enjoyable.
Founder at John Reynolds' Venture LLC - Creator of ¿?Trules™ for drama free decisions
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 5
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Process is everything you do and need to deliver a result. This also stresses that a process is just a means defined by its result.

Workflow is only the What? part of a process. So the activities where a case flows through. That's why I prefer the term caseflow:p

But to make a process work, you need more than a workflow: People, information, tools, software, supplies, a way of managing.

Personally I try to avoid the word process in the first place, but start from the problem of a customer to be solved. Which might be translated into a requested product or service. I prefer calling this a case type. For each case type you can design a process consisting out of the earlier mentioned parts (workflow, People, information etc)

Based on this process design (and implementation} a process can be executed for an individual case.

So to me a process is the real thing happening for a case and that can be seen if you visiting the gemba.
Sharing my adventures in Process World via Procesje.nl
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 6
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I am with Emiel, workflow is part of a process. We may say that workflow is a visible part of an iceberg called process. See also [ref1].
References
  1. http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.bg/2010/04/comparison-of-technologies-for-bpm-bpms.html
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 7
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
I agree with most of those who've posted earlier, but really, depending on context, the words can often be used interchangeably.

I more often run into this question: what's the difference between a process and an application? I try to stress that the former is a component of the latter. The process is the journey but the application is the experience coupled with the results. But I digress.
http://www.bplogix.com/images/icon-x-medium.png
-Scott
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 8
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Process in business is the totality of work undertaken by people, machines and computers which deliver the required business outcome. Workflow is a computer tag created to recognise the flow of the information within the process and as such just one component in the delivery of the required process which should be in built within any Digital Business Platform.
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 9
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Consider the usual accounting analogy:

debits, credits and ledgers --> accounting --> managing
workflow --> process --> managing


In management discourse, there's a sense that the terms process and BPM are sort of fading from view, the concepts being absorbed into "all management" and "all technology". And then we have management and technology flavours-of-the week. This loss of momentum, just at the moment that process and BPM are needed more than ever (IoT and business transformation), is a setback for both vendors and corporates alike.

If we give up what is unique and important about business process and BPM automation software technology, we give up the ability to sell it, to evangelize for it, and business leaders give up the language of the work of business. (The uniqueness and importance of BPM automation software technology is the theme of my multi-part article series here on BPM.com: BPM Technology As Revolutionary Enabler)

I mention this because we have several suggestions above, by writers for whom I have enormous respect, implying it seems that BPM and workflow are not fundamentally unique or centrally important to business. This view is not uncommon, and is in part reflected in the evolution of some BPM software vendors to downplay the workflow- and process-orientation of their platforms. Another signal noticed this year, by Paul Harmon, has been the decline in the number of business-oriented BPM conferences.

I've always liked the term workflow; it seems to resonate well with business people. And it contains the all-important term "work". Signavio has a nice, slightly humorous, article wherein there are two answers to today's question: "They're the same" and "they're not the same". The consensus here is reasonable; that process is about the bigger picture and workflow is more narrowly about task orchestration.

Back to our accounting analogy, which I like to use as a comparable technology to BPM and useful for understanding technology adoption. It is inconceivable that debits, credits and ledgers will ever go out of style. They just are. And accounting is always with us, regardless of your feelings about accounting. The definition as body of knowledge and practice around workflow and process is by comparison, centuries behind.

World-wide trillions are spent on software, and how much of that is understood as supporting workflow and process management? But if software is not for workflow and process management, what is it for? I advocate for calling out BPM software is the software of the work of business, by definition. Because only in BPM software are the concepts of work and process first-class citizens of that technology.

The bigger picture is for process to become a first-class citizen of management discourse and practice too. In the same way that all executives understand debits and credits and cash flow and accounting, future executives will be successful insofar as they embrace the same systematic discourse around process. Process as first-class citizen of management discourse.
Comment
  1. John Morris
  2. 9 months ago
  3. #5184
Along these lines, Dr. Samarin advocates for the importance of business architecture. One could say then that the language of business architecture should also be a first-class citizen of management discourse.
  1. David Chassels
  2. 9 months ago
  3. #5185
@John Interesting to put Accounting into context today of the ability to now track all activity of operational process as you say centuries behind! It was clever monks centuries ago who developed the double entry book keeping in recognition recording for every debit there is a credit therefore taking comfort all was accounted for in the books to support the balance sheet with the balancing figure being the profit or loss. Such book keeping was computerised and formed the foundation of ERP. But and big but these were designed inside out and that gap emerged between people who do the work and the inflexible clunky book keeping systems. This gap has failed to give the comfort that all is being correctly accounted for and this is where the new people and their processes driven software sits with BPM as the driving discipline. With full audit trail of who did what when and real time reports of activity operational risks are now contained indeed does raise the question is there a need for double entry book keeping as a reliable judge of good governance compared to operational process knowledge and monitoring? I would argue that without this knowledge from operational processes difficult to be fully satisfied on financial reporting and performance metrics.
  1. John Morris
  2. 9 months ago
  3. #5186
@David, you are saying therefore that the accounting / BPM mashup is not merely an analogy? You are almost suggesting an eventual technology convergence even?
  1. David Chassels
  2. 9 months ago
  3. #5187
Yes I see that as the future where BPM digital software can generate reports on accounting needs.....full audit trail...back to basics of business where all data is created as the driver where accountants need to take responsibility. Might take a few decades but to totally remove corruption in the world needs to happen...
Good point John. It seems that we need an architected set of standards about management of work comprising:
- engine for management of distinct activities
- execution style
- various pluggable coordination techniques (BPMN, DMN, etc.)
- formal descriptions of all necessary business artefacts
- digital business platform capabilities and APIs

Maybe to use the brain power of this forum to enrich this list?
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 10
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Process -> a cooking recipe
Workflow -> how I organize/set up the ingredients, cooking utensils, pots/pans/bowls before starting; how I access these during cooking .
Comment
  1. John Morris
  2. 9 months ago
  3. #5188
Walter -- fantastic analogy. How about we put it back in the oven and see if we can get it to rise some more?

1) Process --> Recipe written down -- a.k.a. "the process model"
2) Workflow --> Cooking tasks and resources orchestrated -- a.k.a. "the executable model" -- where work happens.
3) Process --> (again) Making dinner, i.e. both the overall programme and the "deliverable" or "outcome" -- a.k.a. what everyone wants, that for which you are accountable,

So we now have a "process sandwich" for supper, with a workflow filling. : )

Does a discussion about terminology matter?

A discussion about process and workflow terminology? I suggest it does.

Whatever the lack of precision that might afflict our discussion here, that same lack of precision afflicts all software development, only multiplied by 10. All software technology is concerned with automating work. And lurking behind any software project are the more or less hidden concepts of work and process. Sure, there are a few other irreducible things such as database and UX and rules etc., but fundamentally software is about helping humans get more work done. Workflow and process are at the core of that programme. And BPM champions have a vocabulary that, however imperfect, enables them to address the real meaning of software more rapidly and effectively than is case when work and process are not explicit. Go team BPM!
@Karl Walter, out of answers above, yours is closest to my understanding of this dualism.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 11
Brian Reale
Blog Writer
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
There was a difference for a moment in time. BPM seemed to take on a connotation of "human+system" workflows, and workflow seemed to get associated with pure human to human processes. I feel like the split happened sometime around the summer of 2002. The two terms seemed to have regained an identical connotation of "human+system" sometime around 2012.

Did anyone else feel this exclusive gateway event and then the join almost exactly a decade later? :D
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 12
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Here is my suggestion for wording. By process we mean any kind of description including input ->action->output. Note that the "process" is human construction. In reality there is no such thing. The only evidence of having the process is the description fulfilling the criteria. The workflow might be a process if the description fulfills the criteria.

We describe (and design) processes for several purposes. The purpose is related to the context and situation. When we give a name to the process description, it might be good define the so that the purpose is evident (not just calling it process). I understand the BPM as the "levels" of thinking. My thinking is based on systems theory and specially the phenomena called "emergence".

So far I have identified 5 levels in my "BPM" and I have given them names: 1) Business, 2) Purchasing vs. earning logic, 3) Business process, 4) Service process and 5) Workflow. Each level has a different challenge and purpose. To deal (=understand and dialogue) on the level I have developed a special way describe the "process". In the Business process level the challenge is to organize the work and in the workflow the challenge is to improve the action.

Br. Kai
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 13
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Workflow is an implementation of process. Process is a template defining structure, rules, objects and their relations in a business environment associated with certain business goal or case. Workflow is a concrete realization of process in given business context. In other words, process is a plan, while workflow is a sequence of business actions taken according to this plan. Process is an architectural project, while workflow is a building created on this architecture. Multiple buildings can be erected from the same architecture. Unlimited sequences of actions can run along the same plan. But the plan or architecture behind all these varieties of buildings and sequences is a common ground cementing their distinguished similarity as a family.

https://caseagile.com/wp-content/uploads/Difference_between_workflow_and_process.jpg
Comment
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 14
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
A workflow is a series of repeatable activities that you need to carry out to finish a task. A process, on the other hand, is a set of repeatable activities that need to be carried out to accomplish some sort of organizational goal.

Here are some difference between these two concepts:
# Process is a sequence of tasks, workflow is a way to make this sequence more productive and efficient
# Process is something that exists naturally and flows intuitively. A workflow is analyzed, planned, modeled and automated consciously and with well-defined purposes
# Process is the way a team coordinates and communicates to deliver a result. Workflow is a technology or tool that can help to do achieve this result in the best way.
# Not every process is automated, the goal of workflow software is actually to automate business processes
# Workflow is a consequence of the existence of processes, so it’s possible for a process to exist without workflow. Conversely, a workflow cannot exist without the corresponding process.
Kritika Pandey (Software Analyst)
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  1. more than a month ago
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