Confused about the differences between Workflow and BPM?

Everyone "does" workflow. They probably don't call it workflow, but the reality is they are doing some form of workflow. By my definition most people actually do what I call work "routing" - which includes tasks like e-mail and even passing around paper based documents. Routing typically does not have the ability to track, manage, or otherwise monitor (at least in an effective and predictable manner) the effort. While routing is technically a form of of workflow it is only a subset of the elements required to be considered workflow.

Beyond Routing - The next step up from routing is workflow. A workflow can be designed, developed, and deployed in a predictable and repeatable manner. It may involve parallel and serial routing, it may involve recursion and mutliple iterations of steps. It may also involve interoperability between systems and humans. Caveat - This highlights one of the problems with the term "workflow." It is overloaded, overused and arguably mis-used.

Future postings will include some of the other elements that should be considered when evaluating Workflow and BPM systems. Look for future postings that will discuss some of these nuances and will try to shed light on these details as they grow and require extra effort and in terms of interoperability. These points will be covered in more detail in future postings and will involve the elements related to the different workflow components and how they interoperate to form a system.

Workflow Components:
  • Human-to-Human
  • Human-to-System
  • System-to-System
After workflow comes BPM (see the graphic below). BPM involves several core elements that can be described by the term MIMO. BPM is typically a roll up of the elements in the underlying workflow system. Where each of these elements is extended to include additional capabilities.

BPM Elements:
  • M -Modeling
  • I -Integration
  • M -Monitoring
  • O -Optimization
After BPM comes Dynamic Business Applications (DBA). DBA is what the analysts are talking about as the future of workflow. While some of the elements are in place today for a DBA solution or system we are still a few years away from this becoming a reality. DBA includes advanced capabilities that are not supported today on a broad scale basis. Companies like Microsoft are making strides to get there with base level elements for developers like Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) and the next generation offering called Oslo which will include a modeling canvas and language (called "M"). This is a topic for another post.

The Routing - Workflow - BPM - DBA Curve

Below is a podcast that describes the high level elements in 5 minutes. Kudos to JP Morgenthal of The Burton Group for taking the initial step.

Blogger: JP Morgenthal - I just completed my first Podcast that explains BPM and workflow in easy-to-follow, layman's terminology and clears the FUD associated with these terms. Listen here!

Link to Audio:
JP Morgenthal's io -


Ranjith said…
It has been interesting to read your blog. BPM tools and Workflow solutions have brought in significant changes to our business environment. We had spent much time trying out various solutions before we settled down on one, called KiSSFLOW. For us the cost-benefit equation was the only thing that mattered and so we chose kissflow. I've been able to automate the processes like Purchase, Check Request and Vendor Profiling. I am trying to set up a Supply Chain with it, taking their support's help in getting that set.

Tracking process status and order status is extremely easy on this. I wonder why we didn't have this 5 years ago when we started.
Nuri Akter said…
Workflow Components points are awesome! We can get a better workflow solution from this Workflow system !