Blog /

What is the Difference Between Process and Procedure

What is the Difference Between Process and Procedure

It’s possible to conduct a quick search and find the dictionary definition of a process and a procedure. Although this will shed some light on the matter, having the ability to accurately identify the differences in a real-world situation is more difficult. Understanding: what is a ‘what’, and what is a ‘why’, can quickly become confusing.

It’s possible to conduct a quick search and find the dictionary definition of a process and a procedure. Although this will shed some light on the matter, having the ability to accurately identify the differences in a real-world situation is more difficult. Understanding: what is a ‘what’, and what is a ‘why’, can quickly become confusing.

Def. ‘Process’ noun

  1. A process is a series of actions which are carried out in order to achieve a particular result.

Def. ‘Procedure’ noun

  1. A procedure is a way of doing something, especially the usual or correct way.

There is a notable difference between the two terms. However, failing to understand how they relate to one another will cause efficiency issues within your company, and consume valuable time. We’ll dive deeper into what these terms mean later on.

Maintaining a systematic outline of your business, the tasks that are involved, and how these should be conducted will ensure quality. By employing a detailed QMS (Quality Management System), you’ll produce more consistent output, at a higher quality. Here is the basic flow of a standard QMS.

Company Process → Department Procedures → Work Instructions → Results

As you move through the flow diagram, you’ll aim to uncover more and more detail about specific tasks within a process. With a comprehensive system, any potential creases within input-output chains can be ironed out.


Let’s go into a little more detail for a full understanding of the differences of each term, and how they work. You might be thinking, ‘Should I worry about this? My business is only small.’ Yes, you should be thinking about this. Every business, regardless of size, will have a discernible process. Identifying these processes is the first step towards improving your workflow. Okay, but how do you recognise a process?

You can determine whether or not something is a process by drawing a simple flow diagram. A process is simply an overview of tasks that need to be carried out to achieve the desired outcome. A process does not go into detail about what the tasks are, who needs to do them and how they are done. A business might have multiple processes, depending on the size of the company and its output. A process is not always confined to a single department, tasks may pass through various departments in order to achieve the output. 

Generally, there are three steps to a process, input, procedures (including sub-procedures), and an output. 

Imagine you’re an online blog trying to acquire newsletter subscriptions. You need to put in time and labour to achieve your goal. This is your input. In order to acquire the subscription, you’re going to set up a referral campaign. This is the procedure. After some time you see that fifteen new readers have subscribed to your newsletter. This is your output.


Another common term for a procedure is an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). Whilst a process only outlines the route from point A to point B, a procedure delves much deeper into each task. Generally, more complex processes will require more procedures.

It won’t be easy to display a procedure as a flow diagram because we need much more detail. A document would be more appropriate. A procedure document should address 3 key points. What the task is, who is going to complete it, and when it needs to be done. A well-defined procedure is key to outperforming your competitors, especially if they provide a similar service.

Imagine you are onboarding new customer service employees for your e-commerce store. When a customer sends a complaint, there is a desired output. That desired output could be - a resolved complaint. To achieve this goal, there are a series of tasks that must be performed. This is the process. One of these tasks could be - replying to the complaint. Simple. However, without a clear procedure, your customer service team will be replying to complaints differently and at different times. By writing a detailed procedure, you can ensure quality and consistency. A good procedure can be the difference between a happy customer and an unhappy one, even when the process doesn’t change.  

Not only will procedures improve the outputs of your business, but they’ll also help with onboarding new employees. This means new hires will perform better, in a shorter time. It’s worth noting, not all processes will require procedures. 

Work Instructions

Although not the main focus of this article, it’s vital that we understand how work instructions contribute to the QMS. In photography terms, work instructions are your ‘macro’ lens. They provide the greatest amount of detail. Whilst procedures stipulate the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘when’, work instructions offer specific step-by-step instructions for a task. They are called ‘instructions’ because they are mandatory. It is not a ‘work guide’

In the case of replying to an email complaint, the work instructions would detail how to log in, how to select the right font, the structure of the email, and so on. When writing your guide, make sure to give each activity a clear title, and an explanation on how it is performed. Number each role, and try to express the steps in a positive tone. This means, instruct to ‘Do’ rather than ‘Not do’. Some instructions might include ‘triggers’, these are actions with prerequisites.

Business Process Management Software (BPMS)

Despite its lengthy name, the concept behind BPMS is simple. It enables your business to produce higher quality outputs, with greater consistency. You might have been thinking, ‘Now I understand the importance of processes, procedures, and work instructions, but how can I monitor this?’

That’s where BPMS comes in. 

AhoyTeam enables leadership to easily track employee progress. With AhoyTeam you can create custom workflows in Slack. With these automated workflows, you’ll be able to deliver great results constantly and outshine your competitors. You can monitor employee workflows as they systematically check off tasks within a process. With AhoyTeam, each task can be assigned specific procedures and detailed work instructions.

Keeping your procedures up-to-date is made easy too. Simply update your workflow at any time, without the need to reprint expensive manuals every time you make a change.

Like this article? Spread the word.

Get Started today!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
✔ 14 Day Trial
✔ No credit card required