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The CIO’s Guide to Workflow vs. BPM


First off, here’s a simple analogy to explain the difference.

As we’ve explained elsewhere, think of each workflow as the orderly set of tasks carried out when a plane lands at an airport. It’s a sequence of synchronized actions between the pilot, ground crew, the airport’s control tower staff, and the flight attendants on board.

The everyday operation of an airport, however, includes many other landings, takeoffs, aircraft maintenance, passenger transit, and many more such workflows. The management of all of this is BPM, or Business Process Management.

Here, we get to the brass tacks of the difference between workflows and BPMs, and how the CIO can communicate the distinctions to a team.

BPM vs workflow CIO

So, What’s the Actual Difference?

As mentioned, a workflow is the path taken by a single business process at your organization. If it’s a restaurant, this could be the way a single dish is created. There are many elements in a process. In the restaurant example you have:

  • The ingredients (or the data/raw materials to be processed)
  • The recipe (or the workflow–the sequence of tasks to process the data)
  • The people involved such as the cook, kitchen manager, and waiter (or task owners)
  • The current stock of ingredients (or databases that directly impact the process)
  • A system to tell the waiter a dish is ready (or notifications)

As you can see, workflow is just a single element of a single process. Everyday, your business follow countless workflows to take data or materials from unprocessed to processed. And each of those workflows has to be in sync with data, people, system, notifications, and databases in order to run effectively.

Managing all of these, and making sure they are streamlined for optimal efficiency and productivity, is what BPM does.

So, Do I Need Workflow or BPM Software?

If all you’re worried about is mapping out shared checklists, and have no serious dependencies on databases or shared information, then workflow software may be enough for you.

However, it’s highly likely that sooner than later, your organization will face the need to manage interconnected processes, gather data about the workflow, and integrate the process to other tools and systems.

For example, you could create a simple approval workflow to generate a payroll report. However, it sure would be nice to automatically pull data from recent employee leave request records, and have an automated form that connects to your finance system.

BPM systems offer the functionality you need to manage multiple workflows, and associated form data, notifications, and reports.

In our airplane analogy, the pilot of a specific plane needs workflow software to make sure the plane lands on the ground. But the person running the entire airport needs BPM software to streamline processes and get comparable data.

Head to Head

  Low-Code BPM Software
Primary Feature Process modeling and mapping for individual processes Process management, integrating data and workflows across departments
Goal Streamline a single process Digitize and manage all the processes across an organization
User experience Easy and simple Consistent across all processes
Scalable Yes, but in isolation Yes, a comprehensive growth

What This Means for CIOs

As a CIO, you are often part alchemist, part magician. You make things happen that seem to be impossible. But your best gift is often giving someone the technology they actually need, and not just what they ask for.

For example, you may hear other departments asking for a better way to handle workflows. Perhaps they are growing weary of the challenges of pushing data back and forth manually and need something that is more accurate and gives more visibility.

When your finance team makes such a request, you know that your team can build an application fairly quickly that meets the basic demands. However, as the CIO, your role is to peer into the future and realize that if the finance team needs this for one process, it’s likely they will expand this to other processes too. And they will also require some integrations to other departments to access their data as well.

Just providing simple workflow solutions won’t get very far. But if you start to consider BPM software, you are also solving your digital transformation challenges. BPM systems are a quick way for digital transformation initiatives to spread. Once you see different business units as a set of processes, then the management, digitization, and automation of those processes becomes a core offering of the IT department.

Making the Right Choice, For Your Company

As CIOs sit in the air traffic control booth, they must realize that instead of finding individual solutions for each process going on around them, they can opt for a solution that not only solves the immediate needs of individuals, but also moves the whole company toward digitization and automation.

And, if you choose a no-code BPM software platform like kissflow, you have the additional advantage that your IT team doesn’t even have to service all of the requests that come in. Different business units can create their own workflows, while you assist only the most complex ones and connect different processes together.

Now is a great time to be a CIO and there are more tools than ever out there that can help you offer strategic solutions that move the entire business along. As the CIO’s role becomes even more strategic to the overall success of the business, you need a dependable solution.

Try Kissflow Process for free to see what it is like to offer the power of BPM to all of your business users.

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