BPM vs Workflow: What’s the Difference?

In the world of process management, there are 2 types of software that dominate the market: workflow management and business process management (BPM). If you’ve had experience with both, you’re probably wondering “what’s the difference?” Well, you’re not the only one – the two are often confused with each other since they do just about the same thing. Some, in fact, even claim that they’re exactly the same thing. Others are against the notion, claiming that workflow is one small part of BPM.

So, what’s with all the confusion? Well, it’s all mainly due to miscommunication.

Workflow Management vs BPM: Differences

When people talk about BPM, the general assumption is that it’s about the software. Well, not necessarily – BPM is a lot more than that. Business process management is a methodology of constantly re-evaluating processes, making changes & improvements, automating certain aspects, etc. The software, on the other hand, is a means of achieving this. It provides a tool to manage the processes & ensure that everything is running smoothly digitally.

So what that means is, you can be using the BPM methodology within your business without having anything to do with the software.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s easier to pinpoint the exact differences between workflow management and BPM. Both terms, in this case, refer to the software part.

Workflow management is, long story short, based on the same idea as BPM: the software is meant to digitize your processes and track / automate them online. Since both types of tools are used for the same purpose, it shouldn’t be surprising that they tend to have similar capabilities…

  • Process Modeling or Mapping – Creating a flowchart or map of the process. These can then be used for business process improvement or reengineering.
  • Process Tracking, Monitoring, and Enforcing – Once you have a process digitized with the software, you can always see how it’s performing. This also helps with enforcing changes made to a process, ensuring that all of your employees are in the know.
  • Automation – Getting rid of any administrative tasks (confirmation emails, for example) through automation.
  • Approval Management – Rather than approving documents through email, both software types can streamline the process and send it over to whoever’s relevant.

While the core features are just about the same between two software types, There are several differences in their offerings…

Workflow Management VS Business Process Management 

Workflow Management Software 

Business Process Management Software 

Setup TimeInstant registrationUp to 6 Months
FeaturesProcess Modeling + other basic process management featuresEnterprise-wide process management
PricingAvg. 10 USD / Month / User6-figure installation fee + yearly subscription
User ExperienceNo-code. Minimal onboarding requiredSpecial training + IT help for configurations
IntegrationAPI integration with 3rd party SaaS softwareLimited depending on the solution. Requires addon installation

As a given, the differences between software varies depending on the provider. More often than not, though, the comparison we made is accurate for most Workflow Management or BPM companies.

Workflow Management VS BPM: Which is Right For You?

While it can be seen as a controversial opinion, BPM is more or less a predecessor for workflow management software. It’s a relic from an era when software was a lot harder to install and implement.

Today, more often than not, you’ll be benefiting from the ease of use provided by workflow management software than with all the complexities that result from BPM.

With BPM, you’d need to adopt it throughout the entire organization in one go (hence, the installation fees). This results in high costs, a lot of confusion and error, mistakes, and so on. Worse case scenario, you might become one of those companies that spend 6-figures on adopting BPM software, only to have it be forgotten by everyone within the organization within a year.

Instead, you can start off with workflow management software on a smaller scale, with minimal costs and hand-holding from the management. Once you’ve seen real results, you can always start scaling it and getting your entire company onboard.

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About the author - Amit Kothari

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