Business processes, procedures, workflows, systems – what’s the difference?

In simple terms, business processes, procedures, workflows and systems all help your business run smoothly. They’re designed to help you save time, effort and money, whilst you’re growing and scaling your business. 

But how can you tell the difference between them, and does it even matter? Here’s a quick breakdown of each to help you understand the key differences between them.

Let’s start with a system

A system is a core pillar within your business. Think of your marketing, sales, customer service, technology, finance and operations – they’re all pillars within your business. But they are also the systems or ‘things’ you have to implement within your business to make it work as a whole.

Each of those systems will also have smaller systems within them – such as customer service, invoicing, marketing, content creation etc. As a small business, there are specific systems you’ll want to ensure you have – so check out this blog for what they are: 7 systems every online business must have 

Business processes provide a higher-level view of your business

A process is a higher-level view of the functions within your business. Business processes can contain more than one procedure and can cross different departments and functions. Processes outline the steps needed to get from A to B. They usually include the scope of the task, the start and endpoints, along with the steps and order they’re performed, and who is responsible for completing them.

Is a workflow the same as a process?

Workflows and processes are often used interchangeably, but there are slight differences. A workflow is a pathway that covers all aspects of a task, including the technology and tools, information, activities and tasks to achieve the objectives of your process. Workflows can also be analysed, planned, automated and streamlined, to achieve the best possible results. 

The simplest way to understand it is to see the process as an overview of a function, whilst the workflow is a way to make it more efficient and productive.

A procedure is a series of steps to follow

On the other hand, a procedure is a set of necessary steps you implement to reach a consistent, uniform result. So when you’re looking at content creation, for example, you would have a procedure for blog posts, another for podcasts or videos within it.

When you have your procedures mapped out, it makes it a lot easier for you to delegate and outsource. The procedure ensures that your standards are met and all steps are taken to achieve your desired results. They’re also referred to as Standard Operating Procedures within your business. [Check out What are Standard Operating Procedures and why do I need them? For more information.]

If you’re looking to get help implement the processes, procedures, workflows and systems your business needs, let’s talk! As your Online Business Manager, I can help you assess and streamline your business, put the solid foundations in place it needs and enable you to take a step back, knowing that your business is running like clockwork (even when you’re not around). Ready to explore options? You can book an informal chat here.

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