What is a Process?

The customer experiences the end product that is delivered to them. Mostly not knowing the ‘processes’ that happened behind the scenes to produce the product / service they use. However, with a process, a product / service can’t exist. Which is why, it is important to make sure that the processes (all business processes) are working in the most effective and efficient way.

But first, let us understand what a process is?

Process is a collection of activities performed using an input that converts them into an output that is of value to the customer. Some examples of a process are – pizza processing, loan approval, website coding, interactive voice response etc.

To understand a process, to have to map it; which simply means draw it on a piece of paper or a process mapping tool. Process can be mapped at different levels. The general rule is, that the deeper into the process you go, the more knowledge and opportunity you will gain. No pain, no gain!

There are 5 primary process elements – Supplier, Input, Process, Output, and Customer (SIPOC). See the image below to see how the 5 elements flow:

Now let’s understand these elements in a little bit of a detail:

  1. Supplier: With an input you cannot process. No input means no output. However, for any input, there is a supplier who supplies that input. To understand SIPOC elements, we will use an example of making tea. To make tea, the most important things you need are tea leaves. Who supplies those tea leaves to you? You buy them from the market. Hence, for you, the supplier is the supermarket or the store where you buy the tea.
  2. Input: Input is the material / data / other resources needed to execute the process. In our example of cooking tea, the materials you typically use are tea leaves, water and milk.
  3. Process: So, now that you have the raw materials to cook tea, do they become tea automatically? No! You need to execute the process of cooking tea. We will leave the process of cooking tea out of scope, since we know that it can be a personal choice.
  4. Output: Output is the actual product / service that results from executing the process. In our example, the cooked tea is the output.
  5. Customer: The recipient of the product / service is typically termed as the customer. A customer may be internal or external. To read more about the customer type, click here. In our example, the consumer of the cooked tea is the customer.

SIPOC can also be called COPIS (Customer, Output, Process, Input and Supplier). The only difference is the way it is laid – COPIS attempts to put the customer first in 5 elements of the process.

Each process has boundaries. Understanding the process boundaries is important because if the process boundaries are not properly identified, it is easy to mix two processes while mapping a process. Cleary defining a start point and the end point of the process is called drawing process boundaries. In our example, we could have started from growing tea leaves or even before that. However, we defined the start as buying the tea from the supermarket / store. It also depends on the reason why a process map is being drawn – if the process is being mapped to search for improvements / opportunities, then a process boundary should be the portions that are in control of the department / function in which the improvement is targeted.

If you would like to learn more about SIPOC or other elements of process improvement or you would like SkillStairway to improve the processes in your organization you may contact us and we will be in touch with you within 48 hours!

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