Organizations document business processes in two ways.
The first is informal. Because of the number of people involved in such a task and the complexity of it (even though, on the surface, the process seems relatively straightforward), most organizations find that presenting the business process in a visual form helps people comprehend the process. Most organizations use flowcharts or similar types of diagrams that show how the process proceeds, points in the process that involve decisions (and several alternative paths), and who performs each.
For examples of visual representations of processes, visit:
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In addition to this informal documentation, most organizations also formally document their processes in documents called Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or something similar.
- Explain the purpose of the business process
- State which policy(ies) govern the process
- Identify who is involved in the process
- State where the process should occur (if needed)
- Provide step-by-step guidance for performing each task in the process
- State how long the process should take (if appropriate)
- Explain how to handle special situations, such as accommodating vision and hearing impairments
- Explain how to handle problems that arise during the process and name the person (usually by position title rather than name) who must resolve it
- Identify related processes
In many instances, formally documented processes also provide additional information. For example, when work needs to pass among organizations (whether two departments in an organization or two companies), the documents might also state the quality of work that is acceptable to transfer among groups, as well as the means of verifying quality.
Because one group in the process depends on another group to provide work of a certain quality and in a certain manner, this is called a dependency. The documented process also explains the impact of dependencies and the consequences of failing to meet them. For example, a common dependency in the cash register example is that the customer pays for the goods. When the customer fails to do so, the store does not let the customer leave with them.
When processes are performed across organizations, the Standard Operating Procedures are often formalized in an agreement called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which provides the basis for working between two groups. A Memorandum of Understanding can exist between two departments or divisions of the same organization, as well as between one organization and another.
© Copyright 2012. Saul Carliner. All rights reserved. If sharing or excerpting, should be properly cited.