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Workflow Automation Software vs Project Management Software: Are They Different?

If you have been searching for project management software recently, you may have come across the word ‘workflow’ more than a couple of times. This is because workflows are a natural consequence of project management work. The flow of information in a project is a series of events that are defined and can be repeated as long as the project conditions remain the same.

Therefore, it is normal to find workflow automation capabilities inside project management software. The workflow automation features inside project management software are usually seen in the form of a drag-and-drop builder that lets you define actions that the software will take once a trigger occurs. For example, the system will send a notification to the task assignee once the task changes status in the flow.

As you can see, this is great if you want to automate some tedious and repetitive tasks within your projects. However, it is not the same as having a dedicated workflow automation tool and I will tell you why. First, let’s start with definitions and a few examples of each type of software.

What is workflow automation software?

Workflow automation software is a digital tool that uses low-code or no-code to enable the automation of tasks without human intervention. It typically consists of various components, including a builder that simplifies business process automation through drag-and-drop functionality, a notification system that provides in-app displays or email alerts, a set of triggers that can prompt decision-making, and an audit trail that allows for reviewing the steps taken in each workflow.

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Examples of Workflow Automation Software

  1. 1. — Best built-in workflow automation for teams of all sizes
  2. 2. ClickUp — Workflow automation with hundreds of pre-built templates
  3. 3. Wrike — Best workflow enhancement driven by a powerful automation engine
  4. 4. Integrify — Best workflow automation software that helps you scale easily
  5. 5. Kissflow Workflow — Best no-code workflow automation software with a template bank
  6. 6. Height — Best no-code workflow automations to help with repetitive & time-consuming tasks
  7. 7. Jotform Enterprise — Best enterprise workflow automation with approval & e-signature tools
  8. 8. Jira Software — Best workflow solutions for agile teams
  9. 9. Qntrl — Best for creating workflow automations that integrate with complex tech stacks
  10. 10. DocuWare — Best to workflow automation tool to streamline document storage & management

Notice that this list of software contains some tools that are primarily project management software that have great automation features. The others are dedicated workflow tools that will give you more workflow-related features. Now, let's compare workflow automation software vs project management software.

What is project management software?

Project management software is a software designed to assist project managers in planning, executing, and overseeing their projects throughout the five phases of the project lifecycle. It is a collection of tools that aim to improve collaboration among project managers, the project team, and stakeholders. The main purpose of the software is to enhance productivity by enabling better organization, communication, and management, ultimately leading to more efficient delivery of value.

Examples of Project Management Software

  1. 1. — Best for building custom workflows across teams
  2. 2. Wrike — Best project management software for scaling organizations
  3. 3. Smartsheet — Best for low-code project management automation
  4. 4. ClickUp — Best for remote work teams
  5. 5. Height — Best for startups that need to build products faster
  6. 6. Kintone — Best PM software to build business apps for any process
  7. 7. GanttPRO — Best for planning and scheduling projects with an online Gantt chart
  8. 8. Nifty — Best for remote teams & ease of use
  9. 9. Confluence — Best for software teams
  10. 10. Basecamp — Best for straightforward planning and management by project
  11. 11. Ravetree — Best for client service businesses
  12. 12. Airtable — Best for building project databases
  13. 13. Forecast — Best AI-native project planning tool
  14. 14. Microsoft Project — Best for teams that work in the Microsoft ecosystem
  15. 15. Paymo — Best PM software for invoicing clients

The Main Difference

As customary, your answer is at the end of the article. The main difference between these types of software lies in the reporting features.

While project management software has great automation capabilities, it is difficult to track how those automations are performing. Workflow automation software is closer to what you get from a Business Process Management System (BPMS). With these types of software, you pull information that talks about the flows rather than project information.

This workflow-centricity means that you can:

  1. View audit trails with historical information. You can use audit trails to view data entered, time and date stamps, all the actions that a user took throughout the workflow and any comments or attachments associated with them.
  2. Build dashboards that track performance. You can build dashboards that track the efficiency of your process. Use the information to adjust and let your team get closer to achieving service-level agreements.
  3. Invite others to build workflows. Unlike project management software, workflow tools will allow you to invite people to your workflow builder and provide their input. This makes it easy to co-create and guarantees that your workflow will be reflective of everyone’s interests.

That is all for this workflow automation software vs project management software post. If you like comparisons, you might be interested in knowing the difference between a project manager and a program manager. We also have a fantastic guide to workflow automation.

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By Hermann Fink

Hermann Fink is a technology enthusiast and the co-founder of Rünna Advertising, a multinational digital agency that has been active for over a decade and served clients like Ford, AstraZeneca, Disney, and Didi. In addition to being a business owner, Hermann gathered corporate experience in project management during his time at Hewlett Packard in the early 2010s.

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