August 30, 2018

Workflow Management Vs. BPM Vs. RPA Explained

Written by
Elena Haidukova

Many people confuse workflow with process, although many professionals have explained the difference already. This happens because workflow management is part of and closely related to business process management (BPM) and vice versa. Furthermore, the earliest BPM solutions focused on workflow and the way individual processes were coordinated. Meanwhile, robotic process automation (RPA) comes into the picture and adds even more confusion between business process management, workflow management, and robotic process automation.

According to some people, RPA is meant to replace BPM, and workflow management at times falls out of the discussion. The following is what you need to know about BPM, RPA, and workflow management, and how you can get the most out of each.

What is workflow management?

Workflow management means overseeing a process from the beginning to the end. This involves individual tasks, which move from one step to the other until a process is completed. In order to understand workflow management concept well, think about a conveyor belt as it is used it in the automotive industry.

A car part is placed on the conveyor belt, and at various points along the belt’s path different machines or individuals pick up the part and tweak it, add to it, or identify flows. Individuals who identify issues with the part can send the part back if it needs to be fixed. By the time the part gets to the end of the conveyor, many individuals will have added their expertise and contributed to creating a valuable completed product. The management must identify the individuals who need to be involved and make sure that the process flow allows all the parties to make an input.

Generally, the concept of workflow management optimizes your company’s business processes through automation. The optimization process includes planning, coordinating, and mapping every part of your business structure. Workflow management can be challenging. It requires hard work and careful planning to get it to run according to your expectations. Nonetheless, the effectiveness and productivity improvements you will gain will justify the effort.

Workflow management mainly focuses on the structure of the work in an organization and the way teams work together to complete this work. In principle, workflow management does not require software, but in practice, it is vital to use software tools to automate parts of the work and keep track of it.

Workflow management is concerned with the tasks that people do. However, computer software can automate and perform some of these tasks. Therefore, workflow management can include IT systems integration to allow for the sharing of data between workflows and other kinds of IT systems in an organization.

Nowadays, organizations look for workflow management systems, also known as workflow management software, that can enable them to automate their workflows and increase productivity in the process. However, searching for workflow management software is challenging. There are numerous products to choose from and knowing what you will get is therefore difficult.

When searching for workflow management software, you should choose a tool that

  • enables people to automate repetitive processes
  • provides an overall image of the workflow in addition to performance metrics
  • follows up on uncompleted tasks in the process automatically

In order to get the value for money that workflow management software promises, make sure that you choose software that can keep up with the sequence of operations in your organization and delivers or productivity.

What is Business Process Management (BPM?)

BPM is a technology that has made a major contribution to the digital transformation strategies of many organizations. BPM involves designing processes, executing them across systems and people, managing tasks, and optimizing it all continually. BPM concentrates on reshaping the existing business processes of an organization to achieve optimal productivity and efficiency.

BPM software helps facilitate the completion of an organization’s projects. It offers tools to streamline and improve the way business processes are carried out. BPM software components may include workflow engines, business analytics, business rules, collaboration tools, and web forms. BPM process improvement initiatives are usually large scale projects and they can impact the technology, customers, and employees of your organization and bring about major transformation returns.

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

RPA is a software technology that enables employees to focus better on higher priority tasks by pushing the monotonous, routine tasks to software robots to complete. The robots work in a direct manner across application user interfaces. The input data automatically and trigger actions across many different systems acting on the employee’s behalf.

Robotic process automation technology is a user-friendly tool for businesses. It does not involve any programming. Therefore, nontechnical professionals are able to configure and self-serve robots for themselves to solve their automation challenges.

BPM and RPA as a combined approach

Although BPM and RPA are distinct in their own right, they also complement each other. If you deploy them together, they will provide you with a powerful platform to enable digital transformation throughout your organization. BPM and RPA have similar goals of increasing efficiency and productivity. Therefore, they are not competing approaches. Instead, they can work together harmoniously. RPA can assist you to boost the gains you have achieved with a conventional BPM system.

In most cases, organizations do not have the time and resources to implement a completely automated and integrated process. They may also not have a process that doesn’t require human involvement. Implementing RPA and BPM together can bring about the most significant value and process automation that one technological approach alone cannot be able to achieve.

Elena Haidukova is a Marketing Manager at Comindware Inc., and a passionate advocate for empowering executive managers onward to workflow automation and running their businesses effectively.