Both, the “BPM System” and the “Workflow System” are online tools for business efficiency, and they are work systems that can prevent data delivery errors in iterative processes outlined in the “Workflow definition”.

Purpose differences

The word of “Workflow System” may refer to some Workflows that require fewer changes such as “Vacation Request” or “Expense Flow”. On the other hand, a “Business Process Management System (BPMS*)” may relate to business with complex flow charts such as “Order process” or “Production shipping process”.

Basically, the difference is in the scale of the business subject.

But in many cases, “Workflow Systems” assume that each task is handled only by a “human”, while the “Business Process Management System” (BPMS) takes into consideration the “business processing applications” as well as the ones done by individuals. Also, “Workflow Systems” have a simple linear route, whereas “Business Process Management Systems” (BPMS) have complex conditional branches, loops, and calls between separate business processes.

In other words, a “BPM System” is able to cover more complex business processes which are the core of the enterprise.
BPMS: “Business Process Management System” or “Business Process Management Suite”


Differences in functionality

There are various descriptions by system vendors and IT researchers about the difference between “BPM System” and “Workflow Systems”, the main differences (or similarities) are as follows.

Especially “Drawing Model function” which requires no programming knowledge is essential in promoting “BPM activities”, continuous improvement.

The main difference in terms of functionality

  • Drawing Model function: Workflow Design using Drag & Drop
  • Monitoring function: Summarization of the work and assessment of the current work status
  • Business Rules function: Ability to split into a variety of processing routes using conditionals
  • External System Integration function: Ability to exchange data with other systems

Common function

  • Workflow Engine: To recognize the next task processor and pass the relevant data
  • Form Generation: To generate input forms according to the task


Companies focus on BPMS

The motivation of companies that applied BPMS are several

  • They want to make work procedures, which are known only to specific employees, into the company’s common knowledge.
  • They want to oversee progress in real-time and quickly find out where do problems take place.
  • They want to summarize current bottlenecks and wastes, and to discover the streamline point of operational procedures.
  • They want to have project teams that tend to the improvement of customer satisfaction, by exploring, for instance: “How a Quote flow should be”.
  • They want to go over the split conditions of a claim handling flow when events such as recalls or shipping new products took place.

In general, BPMS that supports continuous improvement is much more valuable for companies which business growth is affected by frequent workflow changes, such as “Claim Handling flow” or “Credit Approval flow”.

However, these systems are also effective for companies that have situations in which business flow changes are inevitable and necessary. For example, when handling a “case for a specific business process outsourcing” or a “case to promote the standardization of business processes”. Also, for BPO contracts, making use of a BPMS to build up proposals for customers is often seen.


Features may be associated for both

Working either with a “BPM System” or a “Workflow System”, the relationship with Enterprise Contents Management (ECM*), Enterprise Application Integration (EAI*) and In-house SNS (Micro-blogging) is very strong.

  • Document management function: To search for files related to a business activity and to secure the re-usability of the deliverable files.
  • Data Link function: To send data to a banking system or to a Time Management system, etc.
  • In-house SNS function: To share information with other members in related areas, and real-time consultation and advice from coworkers.

In some cases, these features are within the system, or by enabling the use of third-party systems.

(Other related functions and features)

  • Complete Web application (no installation required): Lecture to employees, and PC maintenance
  • Single Sign On: Simplify password Management and Security
  • Smart-phone usage: Enable rapid business operations and quick decision-making
  • Cloud based: Enables telecommuting and Business Continuity Planning (BCP)
  • API Feature: Enables the retrieval of the processing operations list, updating user information, etc.

*ECM : Enterprise Contents Management
*EAI : Enterprise Application Integration