Workflow Automation Versus Process Automation: What’s the Difference?
The difference between workflow automation and process automation can be confusing, especially when many use the terms interchangeably. Depending on who you ask, workflow automation and process automation are identical, completely different, or only slightly different.
Both workflow automation and process automation help businesses operate more accurately, efficiently, and competitively by:
- Minimizing time spent on tasks
- Saving money
- Reducing errors
- Improving productivity
- Creating repeatable, reliable, and accurate procedures
Want to dive deeper? Here’s a quick guide to understanding the similarities and differences between workflow automation and process automation.
What is workflow?
Workflow is the completion of tasks. Workflow is also defined as the repeatable actions taken to ensure information, documents, data, and tasks move, or flow, between departments or an entire company.
Workflow helps to ensure more performance efficiency and effectiveness by offering up a set of guidelines for employees to practice when completing day-to-day tasks.
What is workflow automation?
Workflow automation is technology that uses rule-based logic to automate manual work. Examples of workflow automation include:
- Electronically signing and routing a document
- Authorizing an expense report online
- Data entry
Workflow automation helps reduce redundancies, improves accuracy, allows for progress monitoring, increases internal communication and collaboration, and accelerates execution.
What are business processes?
Business processes are the sequence of repeatable tasks that lead to the delivery of information, a product, or a service to an internal employee or an external client.
Business processes also help teams to achieve organizational goals and increase the perception and value of their business product or deliverable.
Examples of business processes include:
- Onboarding a new client
- Contract management
- Invoicing and billing
What is process automation?
Process automation, or business process automation (BPM) is the application of technology to automate a repeatable sequence of different tasks or sub-tasks, using user-defined rules, to drive business operations.
The components of a process automation initiative might include not just the workflow engines involved but also analytics, collaboration tools, business rules, and others.
How are workflow automation and process automation different?
While workflow automation and process automation may seem very similar, there are several key differences between the two.
Workflow automation is the automation of the completion of specific tasks. Process automation is about a more holistic automation of a sequence of tasks.
Workflow automation often is initiated because of existing processes. No existing process, no workflow automation.
Workflow automation makes the completion of individual tasks easier and faster. Process automation makes the operational steps, which may include multiple tasks, needed to complete a project more accurate and more efficient.
Workflow automation often refers to micro-level tasks, like signing a document. Process automation often refers to macro-level goals, like improving customer experience.
It’s good to think of process automation projects as being larger-scale efforts than workflow automation ones, since they can have a larger scope and can deliver correspondingly larger value to the organization.
How are workflow automation and process automation similar?
Many people use the terms workflow automation and process automation mutually, because both can help businesses to:
- Create, monitor, and assess the performance of specific tasks and processes
- Connect people, information, and systems
- Streamline day-to-day operations
- Reduce time spent on tasks
- Improve operational efficiency and productivity
Both workflow and process automation ensure the correct information is routed to the right person, at the right time, in order to optimize efficiency. They reduce the likelihood of errors, optimize employee productivity, reduce the time needed for tasks, and increase profitability.
And importantly, both workflow automation and process automation can help to improve transparency and build trust in a business. By enabling better, faster, more error-free operations, workflow automation and business process automation both serve to boost the confidence of everyone involved, from staff to stakeholder, contractors, and customers or clients.
The bottom line?
By creating repeatable procedures and bettering accuracy, workflow automation and process automation both help to build trust internally and externally, boost profits, and maximize productivity.