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Process vs Procedure: The Key Differences


Every business relies on their processes to function and achieve their goals. But about 40% of business processes are undocumented, with 76% of companies[1] facing severe business consequences related to poor or non-existent documentation. Poorly documented processes lead to poor internal control, implementation errors, or oversight issues. 

Process vs Procedure

Organizations have plans, milestones, and targets showcasing what they want to achieve, but many don't know how to get there. Identifying, optimizing, and harmonizing processes plus procedures clarifies responsibilities, simplifies knowledge transfer, improves business operations and efficiency

However, most people struggle to distinguish between process vs procedure because they’re closely related and often used interchangeably. Knowing the key differences between them helps you formalize business processes, and boost company profitability.

What is a Process?

A process is a series of steps or actions taken to achieve a specific goal or outcome. It is a high-level view of a set of tasks and activities that are performed to achieve a desired result. Processes are usually cross-functional and involve multiple departments or teams.

Typically, your organization’s goals drive its processes to accomplish intended results. One process can cross team or departmental barriers, requiring input or action from multiple departments or stakeholders. But each department engages in unique processes tied to its objectives. 

How many processes your organization has depends on its size, goals, and industry. Since processes offer a high-level perspective of the diverse tasks required to complete work, you can use them to analyze and increase process efficiency.

Advantages of Process in Business Automation

1. Uncover Bottlenecks

The biggest hindrance to improving profitability is the challenge of pinpointing bottlenecks and critical data. In business automation, clear processes improve workflows and eliminate waste. Workflow management tools provide visual aids and quick, accessible reports to help your organization identify, analyze, and resolve problem areas with ease.

2. Promote Team Work

A formal process management system automates, documents, and tracks business communication, helping team members maintain a unified vision of organizational goals. It prevents mistakes, connects everyone to standard operating procedures (SOPs), and creates a company culture where everyone feels involved.

3. Increase Efficiency

Process automation defines inputs, outputs, tasks, next steps, and persons responsible.  Documenting and automating processes enforces best practices, improves turnaround times, and decreases the likelihood of human error, maximizing efficiency. It's easier for decision makers to implement and improve such processes company-wide, saving time and money.

4. Simplify Employee Training

Employees waste about 50%[2] of their day on menial work and simple management tasks. Workflow management shortens training time and accelerates employee understanding of processes, freeing up time for more productive activities. It simplifies complex procedures, providing a higher level of detail. Automated processes also make it easier to assign new tasks, refer back, and redistribute duties. 

Examples of Process

  • Materials procurement

  • Employee onboarding

  • Customer complaints management

  • Claims processing

  • Asset management

What is a procedure?

A procedure, however, describes the steps or actions required to complete a specific task or activity. Procedures are specific and prescriptive, and they provide clear instructions on how to perform a task. Procedures are typically used to support processes by providing the specific steps that need to be followed to complete a task.

Benefits of a procedure

1. Maintain Brand Consistency

Standardization is vital to maintaining consistent organizational results. Procedures harmonize the actions your employees perform—methodical, detailed instructions on how to perform repetitive tasks guarantee predictable outcomes. Documenting procedures and storing them in a central database helps your team use them to achieve consistent results. 

Procedures keep everyone in the company on the same page. You can also use them to establish written standards and maintain consistency in branding personality, feel, or tone. Brand consistency helps your company set smart goals and move everyone in the same direction.

2. Enhance Compliance

For both small and large businesses, audit requirements and complex industry regulations can complicate even simple processes. Well-documented workflow procedures offer a visual representation that helps you identify and address overlooked problem areas. 

Procedures are a clear mechanism for performing internal audits and ensuring compliance with certifications or industry best practices. Digital audit trails offer peace of mind when regulatory agencies need proof of compliance.

3. Better Security

Procedures improve security by granting users limited access to data they cannot directly modify. Additionally, with user-defined functions, procedures restrict employees to perform certain tasks. 

You can also use procedures to note what’s mandatory or forbidden while completing the job, reducing risk and signaling danger. Workflow procedures with icons and photos minimize accidents and injuries, increasing workplace safety.

4. Improve Quality Assurance

Quality management involves automating processes with straightforward procedures, which helps employees understand what's expected in each step. Performing tasks consistently boosts quality assurance. Employees can suggest improvements in their duties and the organization can easily track the cause of problems. 

It's easier to update procedures with process automation because such software encourages employees to pay greater attention to detail, resulting in higher quality finished products.

5. Reduce Downtime

Employee error is the result of 12%[3] of unplanned company downtime, which can cost you thousands of dollars a minute. Written procedures ensure your employees understand the processes and procedures tied to their jobs. It takes the guesswork out of daily operations and enhances productivity. 

Employees spend 1.8 hours daily[4] searching and gathering information. Procedures can help employees find relevant information quickly and provide swift responses. Documenting clear step-by-step instructions increases employee access to information, reduces subpar results and downtime. 

6. Knowledge Transfer

The average company experiences an 18%[5] annual turnover rate. Organizations may compromise key processes if employees leave without transferring their knowledge to replacement hires. But procedures ensure employees complete their work with minimal direction and prevent knowledge loss.

Documenting procedures digitally organizes knowledge, making it more accessible. It's easier for management to transfer work to other employees in case of an extended absence. Workflow platforms also enable team members to edit processes as they evolve and assets increase.

Process vs Procedure: The Key Difference

In short, a process is a broad approach to achieving an outcome in a series of steps, while a procedure is a specific set of instructions for completing a particular task within a process. 

Build Worldclass Processes with Kissflow

To remain competitive and maximize its bottom line, your business needs to understand how each process fits into the company’s larger organizational structure. 

Kissflow's Process platform empowers business teams with a set of tools to create, automate, and optimize any business process with ease. It has a simple, user-friendly interface to help you develop clear, consistent, and efficient processes that adapt as your business grows.

Streamline your Business Process with Kissflow