How is a workflow different from a process, and does it matter? Find out all the details and improve the efficiency of your work management.
"Workflow" and "process" are terms frequently tossed around, and it’s easy to see why they're often swapped like synonyms - they both map out the path to achieving our business objectives. However, this interchangeable use can sometimes blur the distinct value each term holds.
By understanding the differences and the interplay between the two, you'll be equipped to fine-tune your team's approach and streamline your operations for peak performance. Let's delve into the specifics and explore why refining your workflows is a pivotal step toward enhancing your processes.
Workflows and processes play unique roles in improving efficiency in business operations and work management.
A process is the broader of the two concepts, encompassing a set of repeatable steps aimed at achieving a certain goal. Whether it's developing a new product, onboarding an employee, or completing a financial audit, a process defines what and why is behind your business activities.
On the other hand, a workflow is about the how. It's the detailed sequence of activities that should be performed to complete a single process. For example, if your goal is to improve customer service, your process might involve several workflows, such as responding to customer inquiries or handling returns. Each workflow consists of steps that are meticulously orchestrated to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in achieving the end goal.
Efficient workflows are critical for day-to-day operations. They ensure that individual work items are completed correctly and promptly, focusing on the series of steps required to deliver value. To enhance your company's performance, mastering workflow management is essential as it focuses on optimizing the flow of work activities. By breaking down and analyzing each step, you can improve the way tasks are completed, minimize downtime, and ensure that your team collaborates seamlessly.
On the other hand, process flows cover broader objectives. They are designed to achieve larger organizational goals, encompassing multiple workflows and the way they connect. Processes consisting of workflows reflect strategic goals and emphasize improving overall performance.
Visualizing multiple workflows and high-level objectives using the Initiatives workflow in Businessmap
In an age where organizational agility is crucial, a well-defined process flow allows you to adapt and react quickly to changes. In turn, solid workflows are the building blocks that ensure the stability needed to pursue and realize true Agile transformations.
Digitizing workflows and processes is a step towards digital transformation, reinventing how you deliver value and achieve goals through the adoption of new technologies. This adaptation not only supports strategic endeavors but also drives the focus on customer experiences and opens new avenues for innovation.
Understanding the distinctions between workflows and processes can be beneficial for organizational efficiency and can greatly impact how you manage work and resources.
Workflow automation involves the digitization of work activities to facilitate faster and more consistent completion. An example could be the use of automated notifications to signal that something is blocking the workflow. Business process automation, on the other hand, extends to a higher level of planning, such as automating an entire customer onboarding process which involves multiple workflows.
Streamlining workflows means refining specific activities to eliminate redundancies and enhance effectiveness. This could involve simplifying approval processes or document management. Conversely, process optimization assesses and enhances the entire sequence of business activity to maximize performance and yield better results. Your business agility benefits from both, yet each focuses on different aspects of improvement.
|Improve operational steps
|Optimize several workflows for broader goals
|Streamline work execution
|Deal with the overall effectiveness of workflows
|Support daily operations
|Create the big picture addressing long-term goals
Let’s illustrate with a typical workflow outlining the initial steps of a mortgage loan application process:
This workflow can vary depending on the bank's specific procedures, regulations, and the type of mortgage. Workflow management software can significantly streamline this process, providing tools for tracking each stage, automating repetitive tasks, and ensuring compliance throughout.
Regardless of the specifics of your workflows, mapping the end-to-end value delivery stream can help you elevate the transparency of the ways you deliver work. Furthermore, such high-level visualization makes it easy to spot impediments and dependencies in your workflow that may be causing delays.
Identifying the bottleneck phase in a workflow using Businessmap
In Businessmap, you can customize your own visual signals and use them as blockers to indicate the exact bottlenecks causing issues. This would also lead you to understand better the relevance of different work activities in your workflow.
One common business process in the banking industry, for instance, is the process of approving a personal loan. Here's a general overview of the steps involved in this process:
As you can see, the process involves multiple departments within a bank. Each step and team involved in this process flow is connected and contributes to efficient banking operations. It's evident how vital it is to have a structured project management approach from initiation to approving a personal loan inquiry.
For the best results, monitor this process flow regularly, refining it to increase efficiency and effectiveness in responding to customer needs.
To do that in practice, consider adopting systems that let you monitor and analyze performance over time. In Businessmap, you can see the process efficiency of your workflows directly on your Dashboard using the Process Efficiency widget. It allows you to keep an eye on the efficiency of your process, which may consist of multiple workflows. The resulting percentage indicates the ratio between the time teams were actively working on deliverables and the total time required to complete the request.
Analyzing a process flow using the Process Efficiency widget in Businessmap
for outcome-driven enterprise agility.
While both workflows and processes help tune your operations for greater performance and are commonly used interchangeably, they differ in the following dimensions: