The ability to distinguish a process from a procedure isn’t always easy. The two concepts are closely related and the differences between them can be subtle. For a clearer understanding of the differences between a process and a procedure, let’s start by looking at a couple of definitions.
What is a process?
A process is a series of tasks, activities, and workflows that produce a specific, measurable result.
All processes have a starting point (trigger) and an ending point (outcome), and between these two points are a number of steps or tasks. There are many different types of processes, they may be simple or complex, and they can be found in every department of every organization.
Processes often cross teams or department barriers and may require input or action from multiple stakeholders.
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What is a procedure?
A procedure is a set of instructions for completing a specific task or activity.
Procedures are sometimes documented in painstaking detail to ensure the task is completed consistently and with precision. The end result of a procedure is the successful completion of the task according to the instructions.
Process vs. procedure: What are the key differences?
In a nutshell, the key difference between a process and a procedure is this: a process is a series of tasks and activities that produce an outcome. A procedure is a set of instructions for completing a single task or activity within a process.
Example of the differences between processes and procedures
Consider a typical request management process. The steps in the process include:
- Receiving the request
- Routing the request to the appropriate reviewer
- Approving or denying the request
- Notifying the requester of the approval decision
There is a distinct procedure for each of these steps. This serves as a set of instructions that tells the employee exactly how to complete each stage of the process. For example, when routing a request to an appropriate reviewer, the following procedure could be required:
- Check the request type.
- Select the approver based on the type.
- Create an approval ticket.
- Add approval deadline to the ticket.
- Email the ticket to the approver.
This is an example of how this procedure can be handled manually. It is also possible to use a business process automation tool to complete procedures of this type.
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