Skip to main content

What IS a Process?

Ross Wise here again…While I was working on some process improvements the other day it occurred to me that it could be very easy for people to get confused over the different elements that make up a process. So I thought I would jot a few down for everyone to help clear things up…

First we have the process itself. This is a collection of specific high level steps that can happen in either a linear or parallel fashion to achieve specific objectives or outputs. It consists of a number of elements:
  • Procedures: detailed instructions for the completion of a given process step

  • Flowchart: a diagram showing the order and connection of process steps and decisions

  • Inputs: the raw materials you use to create the process output

  • Outputs: the end product or service resulting from doing the process steps and procedures

  • Triggers: events that initiate the process

  • Roles: the assigned responsibilities given to individuals using or executing the process

  • Resources: additional tools, templates, technologies, finances, etc that will used to execute the process
Remember that the process flowchart (the document showing the order of steps and decisions) is not the only element of a process. The other elements need to be identified and documented in order to have a complete process.
The procedures also have smaller, more detailed elements:
  • Work Instructions: very detailed instructions that explain how to execute a task

  • Tasks: a piece of work assigned to a single individual
In a well designed process the high level steps should not change. They should be general enough that they would cover a variety of procedural or work instruction situations. An example from Incident Management:
  • Process Step: Log the Incident

  • Procedures: Open the Incident Tracking Tool; Open a New Incident Ticket; Enter Customer Information, etc.
The relationship between a process step and a procedure step should be one-to-many. The same one-to-many relationship goes between procedures and work instructions or tasks.
Every process also needs to have process controls in place. These are policies and strategies that help identify and manage the creation, use and improvement of a process:
  • Owner: someone who takes charge for the successful completion of a process

  • Strategy: statement of the overall purpose of a process and the reason for its use and

  • Policy: statement of the do’s and don’ts related to the use of a process existence

  • Measurements and metrics: quantifiable aspects of a process that show whether the process is achieving success and quality for the customer
The parts and pieces of a process fit together nicely into a relationship hierarchy:



Each element becomes more detailed and granular as you move down the hierarchy. In order to determine the tasks and work instructions you must know your procedures. Those are developed based on your process steps, which come from polices and strategies. I think you get the picture.
You must be careful when creating and implementing processes that you think about all the elements involved and not just stop at a flowchart. In fact before you can even get to the flowchart you must think about the elements that come before (and after!)

I hope this simple overview of the elements of a process help you while you are working to create world class process implementations…now back to improving my own processes!



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between Process Owner, Process Manager and Process Practitioner?

I was recently asked to clarify the roles of the Process Owner, Process Manager and Process Practitioner and wanted to share this with you. Roles and Responsibilities: Process Owner – this individual is “Accountable” for the process. They are the goto person and represent this process across the entire organization. They will ensure that the process is clearly defined, designed and documented. They will ensure that the process has a set of Policies for governance. Example: The process owner for Incident management will ensure that all of the activities to Identify, Record, Categorize, Investigate, … all the way to closing the incident are defined and documented with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, handoffs, and deliverables.  An example of a policy in could be… “All Incidents must be logged”. Policies are rules that govern the process. Process Owner ensures that all Process activities, (what to do), Procedures (details on how to perform the activity) and the

Four Service Characteristics

Recently I came across several articles by researchers and experts that laid out definitions and characteristics of services. ITIL provides us with a definition that can help drive the creation of value-laden services: A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks. An area that ITIL is not so clear is in terms of service characteristics. Several researchers and experts put forth that services have four basic characteristics (IHIP): ·          Intangibility—Services are the results of actions not things. They have no physical presence and represent a logical set of elements. One way to think of service is “work done for others.” ·          Heterogeneity—Also known as “variability”; services are unique items because of the mechanisms used to deliver services-that is people. Because the people element adds variability, the service is variable. This holds true especially for th

How Does ITIL Help in the Management of the SDLC?

I was recently asked how ITIL helps in the management of the SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle).  Simply put... SDLC is a Lifecycle approach to produce the software or the "product".  ITIL is a Lifecycle approach that focuses on the "service". I’ll start by reviewing both SDLC and ITIL Lifecycles and then summarize: SDLC  -  The intent of an SDLC process is to help produce a product that is cost-efficient, effective and of high quality. Once an application is created, the SDLC maps the proper deployment of the software into the live environment. The SDLC methodology usually contains the following stages: Analysis (requirements and design), construction, testing, release and maintenance.  The focus here is on the Software.  Most organizations will use an Agile or Waterfall approach to implement the software through the Software Development Lifecycle. ITIL  -  is a best practice for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with