Business Processes and Productivity

by bobroan on January 9, 2013

Business processes are a good model for thinking about productivity.

A business process is the set of activities that accomplish some goal, like reviewing a document, fixing a refrigerator, installing an electrical circuit, responding to a customer query or any of the things on which your organization spends its time.

You have flexibility in how broadly or narrowly you define the business process.  It could be “create the user manual” or it could be just one part of that, say “review the user manual.”  Make this decision based on what’s manageable and useful in your situation.

Let’s divide business processes into flows and tasks.

Consider this example:

An order comes in and something is needed to fulfill it.  Information is recorded, paperwork generated, tasks assigned and people notified by email.  When everything is ready, a person or people complete a task.  A refrigerator is installed, a document is reviewed, and/or a decision is made.

The flows assemble the task prerequisites and the task occurs and the output of that task might join another flow.

Flows can be comprised of physical goods, information and documents.  The difference between information and a document is that a document is the product and information supports the creation of a product.  Something can be either, depending on the circumstances.  A user manual is a document when it’s being created, but information when it’s helping someone figure out how to fix something.

Tasks can be both automated and people driven.  A system might automatically generate email (a task) but reviewing a plan is done by a person.

The distinction between flows and tasks can be blurry because the task can become more granular.  Instead of one task called “fixing a refrigerator,” the process could expand to “get the manual and other documents,” “figure out what to do,” and “change the part.”  Then we have new flows of documents, knowledge and decisions to look at.

This blog will focus on the flows related to business processes and the automation of their related tasks.  However, it will stay away from automating the people tasks like fixing pipes or reviewing documents.  However, as much as information and knowledge is part of those tasks, we will be involved.​

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: