The Anatomy of a Process – Part 1: The Make-up of a Process

The Anatomy of a Process – Part 1: The Make-up of a Process

“Business process management (BPM) has been referred to as a “holistic management” approach to aligning an organization’s business processes with the wants and needs of clients. BPM uses a systematic approach in an attempt to continuously improve business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility, and integration with technology” – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (

Using appropriate methodologies and approaches, Business Process Management (BPM) enables organizations to become more effective and efficient by defining, analyzing and designing their processes.

Under the framework of a BPM, there are many methodologies and approaches that can be used. However, a comprehensive BPM program should include tools and techniques for modeling, naming conventions and protocols for documenting, and standardized notations and symbols for diagramming.

Methods to defining processes range from simple and basic to more detailed and complex ones. While several methods are used, the following are examples of how two differing methods handle defining processes.

A simple and basic process methodology called IDEF0 (Icam DEFinition for Function Modeling, where ‘ICAM’ is an acronym for Integrated Computer Aided Manufacturing). In this methodology, the structure of a process includes five key elements. They are: Inputs, Outputs, Processes, Controls and Mechanisms, referred to as ICOMs. Each of these factors contributes to the execution of a process.

Diagrammatically, the ICOM structure looks like the following:

Anatomy of a Process 1

The definition of each element is as follows:

  • Inputs are the items consumed or transformed by the process, thus becoming part of the output.
  • Outputs are the desired items of value resulting from a successful process.
  • Process is defined by what is being done during the transformation and by what mechanisms or tools or actions and how they are done (procedures or steps) to make it happen.
  • Controls are the conditions that are required for the successful creation of the output.
  • Mechanisms are the tools and agents used to facilitate the transformation process.

All the related elements (ICOMs) need to be accounted for in each process. Therefore, it is possible to have multiple elements per process (ex. a single process may have 10 inputs, 3 outputs, etc.)

A more complex methodology is the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Methodology. LSS uses the approach of defining suppliers, inputs, process, outputs and customers or SIPOC to define a high level view of a process.

SIPOC elements are represented below:

Anatomy of a Process 2

Additionally, according to goLEANSIXSIGMA (

SIPOC definitions are:

  • Supplier is a person or organization that provides inputs to the Process.
  • Input is a resource that is added to the Process by a Supplier.
  • Process is a series of steps where an Input converts to an Output.
  • Output is a resource that is result of a Process.
  • Customer is a person or organization that receives products and/or services.

It is essential to build the context in which the process exists. This should include factors such as, key procedures, the organization’s structure, goals and strategies, functional capabilities, locations, people, and other attributes that account for all contributing factors that are involved in the process.

The more advanced BPM applications provide structured architectures and frameworks that include essential functionality that is needed for process modeling. Functions such as providing a common process repository of models; offering support for multiple methodologies, notations, and documentation capabilities; and including advanced functionality of simulation, complex overlay and associations for process attributes facilitates capturing all critical requirements.

In business and in our personal lives we use processes to accomplish tasks and get work done. However, processes are quite often not understood and exist subliminally without definition. To be operating optimally it is critical to clearly understand what being a process means. In Part II of this three part series I will discuss the topic – Being a Process.

View part 2 of the series: The Anatomy of a Process Part 2 – Being a Process

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