Difference Between Processes and Procedures

The difference between processes and procedures can be summed up as breadth and depth. A process defines the big picture and highlights the main elements of your business–breadth. A procedure captures those elements and adds more information for functional responsibilities, objectives, and methods–depth. Taken together, they each have different roles to play in defining the standard operating model of your business.

Difference Between Processes and Procedures

What Is a Process?

A process is the conversion of an input into an output.

vendor process map

A process typically operates at a higher level, possibly across many functions, and may cross department lines. A process may contain one or more procedures and may refer to procedures from other processes. Work Instructions provide even more detail for a procedure. Processes, procedures, and work instructions can expand like an organization chart (see process Procedures Work Flow diagram).

Process maps are used to depict business processes, which make up and define your business. Critical business processes must be controlled and procedures help define, document and maintain that control.

Example Revenue Process

Let’s look at the Revenue Process, one of the ten core business processes. The revenue process starts when sales takes an order. The order is pulled from inventory and shipped. But the revenue process is not complete until the order goes through collections and is converted from merchandise into cash. Notice how the Revenue Process crosses various department boundaries from sales, to the warehouse, to accounting.


Revenue Process Functions

Revenue Process Flow


A process is in control when objective are clearly defined, metrics are tracking how well the process is achieving the objective, and actions are clearly taken when objectives are not met. Clearly defined responsibilities, measures, actions, and operating time frames help to establish the controls that are typically found within a procedure. The revenue process is complex and operates across many functions and departments, which may result in a number of different procedures. What is a Procedure?

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What Is a Procedure?

A “procedure” is a term used in a variety of industries to define a series of steps, taken together, to achieve a consistent result, in this case process outputs. Procedures can be called a Standard Operating Procedure, (SOP), a good manufacturing practice (GMP), or a business best practice. Procedures are required for compliance, are helpful for training and procedures help to retain important information that helps the organization prevent errors. A simple process may be described by a single procedure. But a more complex process, like the Revenue Process, will have multiple procedures.


Revenue Process Procedures

Revenue Process Steps


The Revenue Process may be made up of a single procedure or five individual procedures that define the core elements of the process: sales orders, pulling inventory, shipping, collections, and cash deposits. A lot depends on functional boundaries, the size of the organization, the type of business, and where critical control points should be placed.

Many times different processes intersect. The revenue process may intersect with the sales process, inventory process, cash process, and manufacturing process. Your business model defines what processes and procedures are important and how they may intersect. Procedures are not the same as work instruction, although many people think they are the same thing. Did this article help to define the difference between processes and procedures?