We create terms to simplify our life. It is easier to communicate ideas or explain things when we have a word stock with terms. So, we can understand each other and combine our efforts to achieve a common goal. However, the sheer volume of human vocabulary makes it hard to distinguish all the words, contrary to our intentions.
For that reason, we are going to help you today by clarifying the differences (and similarities) of two words – “workflow” and “process.” So that the next time you could avoid misunderstanding in conversations and have a better picture of how business is organized.
What Is a Process?
In general, we think of a process as a series of activities that take us closer to a result of some kind. If we speak about a process from a business perspective, it’s the set of activities that leads us to a business goal, like the creation of a product, its delivery to a customer, or something else.
Thus, a business process is a road to the execution of a purpose. You have a desire to sell products and become richer. And your business process is all the work done to satisfy that desire.
What Is a Workflow?
What is a workflow, then? We refer to it as a series of steps to get a task done. As different tasks might require attention, the specifics of a workflow can vary significantly:
- one person, a group, or an entire company might be responsible for a workflow;
- the goal of a workflow might be anything from information processing to the product’s design;
- some workflows might be continuous, others are done quickly.
Now, it might have become a little bit confusing…
The Similarity Between a Process and a Workflow
If a workflow is any series of steps to get a task finished, and a process is any series of activities (steps) to achieve some result, then a workflow should be a synonym for a process. Right?
Indeed, the definitions of both “workflow” and “process” are very similar. We use these terms to describe an action that leads to some results for a company (an organization). Hence, it is no wonder that people confuse these terms, using them interchangeably as synonyms. Despite their similarity in form, they are not synonymous and explain different actions.
The Difference Between a Process and a Workflow
Basically, a workflow is a part of the business process. So, the main difference between “workflow” and “process” is the scope of action.
Let’s look at some examples.
A company produces a clothing line: socks, t-shirts, jeans, shoes, etc. The main goal of this company is to get the maximum benefit from its work – to earn enough money and profit on their products.
So, the whole procedure of getting their clothes sold to customers is what you can call a business process. This process of earning money includes a set of activities, to mention some of them:
- the company has to make designs of their items;
- it should order enough material to produce those items;
- it should execute the manufacturing of those items;
- an advertising campaign increases the chances of selling out.
In other words, a business process is getting from point A to point B.
This journey from point A to point B consists of various activities. The set of steps you perform to complete one of those activities is a workflow. So, workflows are meant to help with carrying out a process.
For instance, manufacturing clothing items, making designs, advertising campaigns, and other elements of the business process are completed through workflows. A workflow for design-making can include various stages of designing products and examinations of the results. A workflow for advertising might include brainstorming for ideas, creating ads, and searching for business sites to place those ads.
The Importance of Workflows and Processes
We use these categories to guide our progress. Each term describes the stages of our work. Breaking the huge amount of work on easy-to-follow stages helps with organization. You assign specific tasks to your crew, and everyone knows what their duties are. And if something does not work according to the plan, you can quickly establish the root of the problem.
Workflow Management and Productivity
To gain maximum productivity, you have to define your priorities and manage your schedule in such a way as to spend more time on reaching those priorities. At the same time, you need to minimize your distractions and time spent on less important things.
Workflows are keys to a productive business process. Your efficiency in reaching the end goal depends on how well you have planned and executed your workflows. So, for example, even the simplest photo processing process can be broken down into a workflow.
- A carefully assessed workflow will have a smaller number of steps to complete the task. Shortcut!
- You can automate the tedious and repetitive operations in a workflow. As a result, your crew does not need to do it manually, and they can do other things instead. Shortcut!
- Keeping track of a workflow can show you what mistakes or inefficient steps you have. Potential shortcut!
To improve a workflow, companies use management systems to analyze the tasks and optimize their execution. A company might want to automate some operations and change the framework of a workflow. A workflow management system is a software tool that can help with that.
For instance, an advertising campaign might require too much money and time to find websites for ad placing. To save resources, a company might want to use guest posting on reputable business sites. This way, a company takes away unnecessary steps (like searching for the websites) from a workflow, making it more efficient.
Managing your workflows can change so much. Defining the shortest route to the completion of tasks, diminishing redundancy, automation of mundane and repetitive – a well-thought workflow will help your overall time management, efficiency, and productivity.
Now, you know the difference between two seemingly similar terms. Except for the educational value, we hope that a better understanding of the underlying principles of conducting business will help you in practical matters.
About the Author: Marie Barnes is a journalist, freelance writer, and editor at Studyscroll. She has worked for many major publications, but she also ambitiously pursues challenging freelance projects. Her love for traveling motivates her to explore the world. Marie wants to inspire people to follow their dreams by sharing her experiences online.