Business Process vs. Business Workflow (+ Examples)


This is about business process vs. business workflow.

You’ll learn:

  • What a business process is
  • What a business workflow is
  • The differences between a business process and a business workflow
  • Lots more

So if you want to understand this 101 of business processes, then this article is for you.

It’s time for the first step!

What Is the Difference Between a Business Process and a Business Workflow?

When setting up a business process, you should consider the business workflow.

Without a proper workflow, your process won’t be as successful. Both have to work in tandem for the best results.

It can be easy to get confused when you compare a business process vs. business workflow.

They seem similar when you consider the meaning of the words, but when you take a more in-depth look, it becomes apparent how they differ.

What Is a Business Process?

It sounds simple, but when it comes to answering the question “what’s a business process,” you have to dive deep.

In fact, a business process is a series of steps, not a single action. The process leads to a specific goal within the business.

So, a business process might involve multiple steps and numerous team members to reach the desired outcome.

Learn exactly what a business process is in this definitive guide to business process.

What Is a Business Workflow?

A business workflow is part of your business process, and all or part of the workflow involves automation.

Business workflows include repeatable activities, and the purpose of those activities is to finish a task.

Maybe you run a hairstyling salon, and your business process involves doing clients’ hair.

The business process would be to style someone’s hair based on their request.

However, your business workflow would include all of the steps you take to complete that service.

Your workflow can consist of how you set up your workspace, where you wash the client’s hair, what styling tools you use, and what products you put in their hair.

Comparison: Business Process vs. Business Workflow

Your business workflow focuses on how to complete a specific task.

The task may be doing a client’s hair or creating a marketing campaign or designing a product.

Whatever it is, the workflow is usually specific to that particular task.

But your business also needs a business process to function and grow.

A business process includes repeatable steps that you take, but the purpose of those steps is to achieve an overall goal.

In the case of a hair salon, maybe your goal is to book your schedule for a certain number of hours each week.

Your business process would include the steps you take to book new and returning clients.

However, you won’t be able to complete the business process without the workflow.

If you don’t give your customers good hair styling, they won’t recommend you or come back. Then, it will be much harder to reach that goal of booking your services.

Elements of a Workflow

Simplifying a workflow down to a definition does not really give you the complete picture.

There is much more to a workflow than some steps you need to follow.

Every workflow has a few essential parts that enable it to reach completion. These parts or elements include:

  • Data
  • Documentation
  • Rules
  • Steps in process
  • Team members

Consider how each contributes to a workflow.

Team Members

Team members include you and your employees and are the people who help execute the steps in your workflow. In the case of a hair salon, you may only have one team member, yourself.

But you may have more employees who work together.

You might have someone to greet clients at the door, and they can help the client if they arrive early.

Next, you may have someone who shampoos the client’s hair.

After that, the client will head to the styling chair, where they will work with the stylist.

Finally, you may have someone at a counter who handles all of the financial transactions.

That person may also try to book a client for a second appointment.

If your salon is small, you might do all those steps, but each role requires recognition because it is an essential part of the workflow.


Documentation includes any documents you use in executing your workflow. They do not have to be physical documents. Computer documents count as well.

Your salon documentation could include receipts, appointment confirmations, and purchase orders.

If you sell hair products, you may also have documents that record your product inventory.

You can use all of these documents when carrying out your business workflow. Even if a customer doesn’t buy a hair product, you will probably give them a receipt.

It’s essential to keep these documents after a client leaves because they can help you manage your business.

You may need receipts and purchase orders for tax purposes, and it can help you keep track of your revenue and expenses.

The sooner you start tracking your documentation, the easier it will get. You can also use that documentation to collect data about your business.


Don’t confuse data with documentation.

Data is the information you collect, such as sales figures.

You can use data to determine which products or services are the most popular in your business.

In the case of a salon, you can determine how many people go to you to color their hair.

Your data may include how many clients you have each day on average. It could also show how often you sell hair products and how many clients book a return visit.

Data can also show how much money you make each day or week.

If you’re starting your business, you probably won’t have much data to use.

You can do some market research to find out what your target customers may like.

Once you start your business, you should keep track of your data.

That way, you can make any necessary changes to improve your sales and grow your business.

Steps in the Process

As you know, organization is essential in business. For your workflow to move efficiently, you need to identify the steps in the process.

You should be as detailed as you can so that your team members know what they need to do.

Perhaps the first step in your workflow is to greet a client before their appointment.

You should consider how and when to greet people.

Maybe you come up with a script that you use, and you welcome people as soon as they enter the building.

Your workflow could also include specifics for what shampoo to use when washing the client’s hair.

You may have one shampoo that’s better for straight hair and another for curly.

Once you have the details of your workflow, you can write them and print them out. If you have different workstations, you can hand out the right steps to each employee.

Your greeter may have the welcome script, and the shampooer may have a list of shampoos.


The last element of a workflow is the set of rules, and this is where it can be easy to confuse it for a business process.

Your rules can keep your business running smoothly and help you avoid problems.

Your workflow rules may be simple, or you may need a long list of rules. It depends on many factors regarding the design of your workflow.

If you own a bigger salon with different positions, you will need to layout rules for each job.

You may have general rules, such as treating clients well. But your stylists may need to follow certain cleaning measures between appointments.

Your cashier workflow may include rules such as:

  • Ask the client about their visit
  • Offer to schedule a second appointment
  • Promote hair styling products
  • Take client payment

Having rules can make sure that everyone works together and follows the same workflow. If someone ever needs a day off or you hire someone new, you can train them with those rules in mind.

Creating a Business Process vs. Business Workflow

When possible, you should create a business process and its associated workflow at the same time.

Since a workflow can be an essential part of a business process, you want to have one fresh in your mind when working on the other.

You can use your business process to specify the steps of your business workflow.

Perhaps your goal is to book more hair clients, so your business process focuses on getting repeat visits.

Your workflow for each position could focus on providing a good experience.

That way, your clients will be more likely to book another appointment.

They may also want to recommend your salon to their friends.

On the other hand, you can use your business workflow to adjust your business process. If one step isn’t working well, you can change the workflow to solve the problem.

Perhaps recommending products at checkout isn’t effective.

You may decide to add that step to your stylists’ workflows.

They can provide more specialized options to clients, which may convince clients to buy. If that works, you may decide that your business process should focus on upselling instead of more bookings.

Encourage Communication

Especially if you have a large team of employees, you should make sure everyone is comfortable communicating.

The salon manager should be able to ask employees how work is going.

If you run low on shampoo that you use in appointments, anyone who uses the shampoo should tell you.

That way, you can order the shampoo in question so that you can continue with your workflow.

If your cashiers notice that your credit card machine isn’t working well, they can alert you.

Then, you can call someone to check out the problem, or you can get a replacement.

You can communicate these issues easily with an internal messaging system.

However, you can also have regular team meetings where everyone can share concerns about inventory or technology.

Business Process vs. X

There are many activities in business that are similar but yet different to a business process.

Below you find a list of the most important distinctions between different business activities and a business process:

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