Orchestration vs. Choreography: Differences and Use Cases for IT

Woman working on a computer. orchestration vs choreography

Microservice architecture structures applications as a collection of services, or processes, that are either independently deployable or loosely coupled. Typically, services are managed by a single team such as IT. This architecture helps companies deliver applications fast, often, and reliably, which is a must for remaining competitive and responsive to changing business needs. 

But without the appropriate management approach, long-term sustainable management becomes difficult, especially as business demands change and IT dependence increases. 

Orchestration and choreography are different approaches used to manage how the many components interact within this architecture. Keep reading to learn more about each approach.

Orchestration definition

Process orchestration, or business process orchestration, is a management approach that leverages a business process automation platform to coordinate, synchronize, and monitor multiple automated workflows and streamline end-to-end business processes. 

Businesses that employ process orchestration typically have three main goals: 

  • Achieve end-to-end process automation.
  • Seamlessly integrate systems, processes, and tools.
  • Ensure that business processes are flowing smoothly and harmoniously, free of disruptions, delays, and inefficiencies in collaboration and communication.  

Benefits of orchestration

Process orchestration creates an integrated and seamless connection flow between people, systems, processes, and tools. Its key benefit, therefore, is that it coordinates the many moving parts and process end points which makes it easier to manage multiple processes simultaneously. 

When orchestrating processes, it’s necessary to take into account a holistic view of all execution. This is possible by adopting a platform that integrates all software or applications used across different teams, according to their needs.

For IT teams, this is a great way to monitor any security risks that may result from a lack of visibility or control over legacy systems or shadow IT. However, because orchestration serves as the control tower for processes, single-point failure can impact all operations. 

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Choreography definition

Choreography, or process choreography, is used to formally coordinate the way business process stakeholders and systems interact, including the flow of handoffs and approvals, to achieve a desired process outcome. This detail sets it apart from a traditional BPMN process because it’s focused on solely mapping stakeholder interactions or sequences rather than the total end-to-end flow of steps, tasks, and work.

In other words, it’s the trail or behavior of a system or process that is created and mapped. Depending on the complexity of the trail, choreography can become very complicated very quickly which can make it harder for IT teams to debug. Each step’s previous step must be identified, so the control flow isn’t immediately obvious. 

Benefits of choreography

Process choreography is necessary when creating a cross-organizational workflow that involves multiple organizations, such as procurement, payroll, or IT. 

In addition to documenting the flow of interactions, choreographing stakeholder interactions can also help process owners predict expected and unexpected behavior and procedural contact between participants and proactively plan for any outlier behaviors.

For IT teams, understanding how business teams interact can help them model and design processes in a way that is responsive to all stakeholders and that is set up in a way that’s intuitive, structured, and standardized. This ultimately limits the possibility of rogue interaction that may create process delays or introduce risks like data leaks. 

Orchestration vs. choreography: What’s the difference?

Orchestration controls the flow of work and choreography controls the flow of local knowledge. 

The difference between process orchestration and choreography is the focus of each management style. Whereas orchestration is focused on streamlining and automating end-to-end business processes, choreography is focused on defining and streamlining the flow of interactions.

Orchestration vs. choreography: summary of differences 

– Works like a control tower
– Best for managing dependant processes
– Streamlines the flow of processes and technology
– “Harder” to implement but the work typically pays off in high ROI 
– Works like a trail
– Best for managing independent processes 
– Can become difficult to control and identify root causes
– “Easier” to implement but may result in more difficulty managing

How to choose between orchestration vs. choreography

There’s no “right” answer or “better” approach, so deciding which management approach to implement depends on the current state of your existing business processes and the challenges experienced by them. The purpose of orchestration and choreography is to coordinate communication. Choosing which is best depends on the control and level of flexibility you need. 

For example, if there are gaps in communication between steps or if work handoffs are not standardized, choreography may be needed. On the other hand, orchestration makes most sense if business processes have grown in complexity and need to be streamlined so that automated tasks, workflows, and processes can flow effortlessly.

Below are some additional examples of how to choose between orchestration or choreography.

When process orchestration is suitable

Process orchestration is needed and suitable if any of the following apply when: 

  • There’s a need for optimizing existing automation. 
  • The use of digital technology is accelerated.
  • Governance across multiple business processes is not centralized.
  • A complex task or process includes multiple steps, systems, or stakeholders. 
  • Implementing a strategy for connected automations, fostering collaboration, and better communication between different teams.

When process choreography is suitable

Process choreography is needed and suitable if any of the following apply when: 

  • Systems or interactions are decentralized. 
  • There are gaps in communication between systems or stakeholders that cause delays or critical process interruptions.
  • There are too many dependencies between systems or stakeholders. 
  • The process or workflow is simple, has a low level of complexity, or involves a small group of stakeholders.

When to blend both orchestration and choreography

While each management approach has its own benefits, creating a custom approach that’s a blend of both styles can also be beneficial. Whereas choreography streamlines interactions and allows for flexibility, orchestration centralizes the end-to-end management and automation of processes. When combined, process agility, oversight, control, and coordination is attainable.

Process harmony with Pipefy

Whether the answer is orchestration, choreography, or a combination of both, Pipefy helps solve process challenges that impact IT and business lines like: 

  • Increased process complexity.
  • Shadow IT and non-compliance.
  • Unintegrated workflows, tools, and systems.
  • Difficulty responding to changing business demands.
  • Higher operational costs due to IT dependence and long-tail maintenance, delays, and third-party management.

With Pipefy, non-technical users are empowered to build up to 85% of their own workflows, cutting down on costs and IT dependence without compromising IT governance. That means less time spent troubleshooting and more time accelerating digital transformation initiatives that cut costs and risks.

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