Systems versus Software (And How They Differ)

“Software” and “system” are two words that are used interchangeably in online business – and that is just. plain. wrong.

In this video, Layla at ProcessDriven explains what a business system is (a collection of processes) and how that differs from what software is (purchased bundles of other people’s systems).

This is an abnormal post, but we just had to say it louder for the people in the back: SYSTEMS ARE NOT SOFTWARE. *deep breath* Okay, ready? ?

It’s Not the Software We Use, It’s the Skill We Bring to It

This is always a hot topic here at ProcessDriven (and a sure fire way to get Layla riled up if you’re feeling risky).

As Layla and her team have grown to become the “ClickUp Gurus” of YouTube (which, by the way, thank you so much to everyone who has supported this journey!) there’s been one thing that has remained constant in that approach:

While yes, you can find a video on pretty much every feature available inside ClickUp on our YouTube Channel, our emphasis has always been that ClickUp (while an awesome tool!) isn’t as important to your workflow as you might think.


They are not the same thing. The software makes things easier and enhances our workflow in a number of ways but if ClickUp were to shut down tomorrow – you’d still be able to run your business because the systems you’ve built are what make your business successful.

What is a System?

A system is how different processes work together. Meaning all the little things you do inside your business (your subprocesses, your design choices, your support staff, your internal decision process) at the macro view – is your business system.

And while yes, ClickUp is a conduit that helps those systems run smoothly or more automatically —ClickUp is it’s own system, built into a software service that they then offer to you. You are paying for that bundle of systems and applying it to your systems to then offer your services or products. ▶

Basically, when we use any software in our business, we’re taking a collection of systems built by somebody else and plugging it into our overarching system (which is our business system) and hoping it helps everything work together. ?

This can apply to any software! ClickUp, Gmail, Slack, Integromat, even the Internet. When we use a software in our business, we are renting that intellectual software from someone else and applying it to our systems to build something new and exciting. ?

If ClickUp went away, we would replace it with something else. If Gmail went away, we’d replace it with something else. If the Internet went away, we’d replace it with something else… right?! ?

As small service businesses, we’re using software in the same way a manufacturing business might buy a screw, right? They don’t invent their own patent for a screw. They just buy a screw and install it into what they’re building. The same way you and I don’t go out and invent email. We rent or buy email services, and we use that as one little tool inside the toolbox of making our business system function more efficiently. ?

Just like a painter might take colors you’ve seen before, but present them in a way that makes you think you’ve never seen them before, software is a note in the song we are creating in the systems and they are not in any way the same thing, the same complexity, or the same level of importance.

In that same way, we as business owners are charged with taking premade structures, software systems, framework, strategy, copy, etc. and cobbling them together into something that somehow feels new or different or insightful or energizing or exciting or something!

That is what business is. That is what a process is. That is what the overall system of our business is.

It is how we created something from these premade parts into something that really feels special, unique, and accomplishes our ultimate job— which is either creating impact, creating opportunity, creating profit, or creating a little bit of all of the above to build a system that actually serves its purpose. ??

Louder for People in the Back ?

Below is a quote straight from Layla at ProcessDriven that we felt was just too inspiring to paraphrase (and really brings to light how passionate she is about our work here):

Business is my favorite form of art and I have a feeling many of you agree. And if we start to see business as what it really is, which is the orchestration of all of these parts, and stop calling it some kind of cookie-cutter framework that we can just copy and paste or buy our way into, then maybe we would all start to really see it for what it is: a functional form of self-expression, change-making and of world-shaping and potentially, who knows, even a force for good

Maybe the software is an ingredient. It’s a tool. But the system that we build reflecting all of the intentional decisions and the design choices and the human choices and everything else we put into our business, that is SO much more. That is why I end every video the way I’m going to end this video, which is to all of you, please, business owners, business leaders, team leaders, creatives, creators: enjoy the process.

Layla the Process QUEEN ?

Related Resources

I’m Leaving Dubsado…for Integromat!

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ProcessDriven helps small teams turn chaos into process. The ProcessDriven Approach™️ combines software expertise with practical process-first strategies that have helped 1,600+ teams build a scalable foundation of business systems.