Workflows and Processes
The words “workflow” and “process” are often used interchangeably but actually have different meanings. Clear definitions of these terms are necessary for an organization seeking to optimize business process workflow. Find out more about what workflows, processes and procedures are and how to unite these elements in an all-encompassing approach to business process management.
Workflow vs Process
A workflow consists of repeatable activities necessary to complete a task. A process refers to all of the elements necessary to accomplish a larger organizational goal. The general consensus is that workflows account for granular details up to small-scale objectives while processes refer to more comprehensive outcomes.
Terms such as “action,” “task” and “procedure” are used to describe parts of a workflow. Some parties also use the word “process” in this context. For the sake of this explanation, workflows consist of actions, tasks and procedures, whereas workflows contribute toward processes.
Processes are a top-down, large-scale approach toward assessing and interpreting the outcomes of workflows. This perspective is important for accountability but is not the best way to achieve regulatory compliance. While standards may be set and applied at the level of processes, the modifications necessary to meet external requirements must be made through the actions, tasks and procedures that form workflows.
Workflow vs Procedure
Stakeholders seeking to map out workflows may encounter confusion with regard to the terminology used to describe various levels of business management. Defining these component elements is essential for creating a useful explanatory breakdown of workflows for the purpose of optimization. The following definitions may be useful across industries and can be fine-tuned or modified for particular applications:
- Actions: The discrete activities performed by stakeholders or automated in a system
- Tasks: Series of related actions taken to achieve specified results or outcomes
- Procedures: Sequential tasks that form a distinct phase of a workflow
- Workflows: Series of actions, tasks and procedures that achieve a set outcome
- Processes: Workflows that contribute toward achieving larger goals or objectives
A workflow should account for all component procedures, tasks and actions. Breaking down each of these elements is the only way to determine the level of efficiency with which each part is currently being performed and identify opportunities for optimization.
It may not be possible for the leaders of an organization to recognize all of the factors that influence the performance of actions or tasks. Obtaining input from the stakeholders responsible for these elements is essential to making accurate maps or models of workflows. This information can also be helpful for determining whether job requirements are properly allocated for optimal performance or the satisfaction of regulatory requirements.
Further analysis of every aspect of a workflow is necessary to fully account for the actors, actions and resources involved. These are crucial considerations for increasing productivity or reducing redundancy and waste, which tend to be process-level priorities. When it comes to distinguishing a workflow diagram vs process flow diagram, a workflow model includes all of these small-scale elements whereas a process flow model takes a big-picture view of workflow outcomes.
How Workflows Connect to Processes
One of the guiding principles of business process management is the responsibility assignment matrix or RAM. The acronym RACI, which stands for “responsible, accountable, consulted and informed,” guides business process improvement in ways that pertain to the stakeholders whom the performance of actions, tasks and procedures are delegated to complete workflows.
The achievement and maintenance of workplace standards through initial training and ongoing role clarification connects the abstract elements of a workflow to the job responsibilities of specific stakeholders. These distinctions also encapsulate the difference between workflow and approval process. These elements inform the standards that guide workflows and undergird processes.
Regulatory compliance is another area where workflows and processes intersect. Every element in the workflow of an organization may be subject to external requirements. Process models often acknowledge these specifications, but the measures necessary for compliance can only be implemented through best practices for the performance of actions, completion of tasks, execution of procedures and oversight of workflows.
Productivity is another way in which workflows and processes connect. An organization that sets goals for achieving higher levels of efficiency or output must optimize every element of a workflow. Generating an audit trail is the only way to identify the aspects that contribute toward or undermine key performance indicators and come up with strategies to reach procedural objectives.
Business Process Workflow Automation
Automation is a measure implemented at the sub-workflow levels of actions, tasks and procedures that has results that affect workflows and processes. Broad goals of increasing accuracy, efficiency and overall productivity can only be reached by making changes on these levels. Low-tech workarounds can also be implemented to reach objectives, but automation is the best way to pursue sweeping measures aimed at reducing busywork and time to completion.
Fluix offers an accessible and intuitive platform for automation and digitization. Whether either approach stands to provide the greatest benefits for workflow optimization, this platform provides flexible solutions. Manual input and code-free automation capabilities enable organizations without extensive information technology resources to reach workflow and large-scale process automation goals.
Depending on organizational workflows, it may be useful to automate the distribution of documents or the filling, approval, submission or storage of forms. Field services businesses can benefit from the ability to access a system from remote locations on digital devices in addition to office computers. Practically any repeated actions or tasks may offer opportunities for automation, and improvements to productivity may determine new process-level goals for an enterprise.
Choosing the right platform can make it easier to move from a conceptual understanding of business workflows and processes to a digitized approach that optimizes productivity. Fluix is a versatile platform that makes it possible to account for every aspect of an organization’s workflow and automate actions, tasks and procedures in ways that align with the overarching goals of an enterprise. Find out more about powerful tools in the Fluix workflow management platform and sign up for a free trial of this game-changing software.