Business Process

What is a business process?

A business process refers to a series of interrelated and coordinated activities. A business performs these steps in order to achieve a specific goal or produce a desired outcome. Therefore, processes are essential for the functioning of a business. They define how teams complete tasks, manage information flow, and utilize resources to deliver products or services to customers.

An efficient business process is, therefore, crucial for any organization’s continuous improvement efforts. This means having streamlined and effective procedures in place to carry out various tasks and operations. But, to achieve efficiency in business processes, organizations need to implement effective process management. Therefore, organizations use process management to plan, organize, and control activities, ensuring smooth and efficient execution of tasks.

Business Process

Understanding Business Processes:


As discussed above, a business process is a series of interconnected activities, tasks, or steps to achieve a specific goal or outcome. Moreover, it presents the systematic and structured way in which we organize, execute, and manage work. Business processes exist in every aspect of an organization, such as manufacturing and service delivery, finance, human resources, and customer support.

Key characteristics of a business process:

1. Purpose:

Each business process serves a clear purpose, and the organization designs it to produce a particular result or output. For example, the process of manufacturing a product, handling customer inquiries, or processing invoices.

2. Sequence of Activities:

Business processes consist of a sequence of activities. To achieve the desired outcome of an activity, individuals must complete the steps or tasks in a specific order.

3. Inputs and Outputs:

To start a process, inputs, information, or materials are required. Then, they transform these inputs through various activities to produce outputs. These are the final results or deliverables of the process.

4. Cross-Functional Nature:

Many business processes involve multiple departments or functions within an organization. As a result, they require collaboration and coordination among different teams to ensure smooth execution.

5. Metrics and Performance Measurement:

Business processes are often associated with key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics. They measure their efficiency, effectiveness, and quality. In addition, these measurements help identify areas for improvement and monitor process performance over time.

6. Continuous Improvement:

Organizations frequently strive to optimize their business processes to enhance productivity, reduce waste, and improve customer satisfaction. Typically, organizations often associate this approach of continuous improvement with methodologies like Six Sigma and Lean.

Examples of business processes include:
  • Order-to-Cash process (from customer order to receiving payment).
  • Procure-to-Pay process (from purchase requisition to supplier payment).
  • Hire-to-Retire process (from employee recruitment to retirement or separation).
  • Customer Support process (handling customer inquiries and resolving issues).
  • Product Development process (from concept to launch).

Core and Support Business Processes:

Core Processes:

These are fundamental to creating value for the organization. Core processes may vary across different organizations, but generally include marketing, sales, service, product development, and product creation. They directly tie to generating revenues, retaining customers, as well as delivering products/services.

Support Processes:

Support processes, on the other hand, provide vital resources or assistance to sustain core processes. Examples include purchasing and human resources, which serve the supply chain or specific departments. Although crucial, support processes are not the primary focus of the organization.

Identifying Core Business Processes:

Determining the right processes for improvement is crucial to avoid wasting time and resources. The following three key questions can help identify core processes:

  1. Does the process involve multiple departments? Core processes often require collaboration across departments, utilizing diverse talents to achieve desired outcomes.
  2. Does the process generate revenues? Core processes have the potential to generate income, retain customers, or produce valuable products/services.
  3. Is the process customer-focused? Core processes prioritize external customers, whether they are companies, distributors, or end consumers.

Here's how understanding business processes benefits the Six Sigma project team during the Define phase:

  1. Identifying the Scope of the Project:

    As discussed, business processes exist in every aspect of an organization. But, sometimes, they can be complex. Understanding business processes allows the team to identify which specific processes are relevant. In addition, it helps define the boundaries of the project, ensuring that the team focuses on the right processes.

  2. Defining the Process Inputs and Outputs:

    In the Define phase, the team needs to understand the inputs and outputs of the processes involved. This knowledge helps them establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the processes. It further enables the team to identify potential areas for improvement and set baseline measurements.

  3. Identifying Cross-Functional Nature:

    Many business processes involve multiple departments or functions within the organization. Understanding this cross-functional nature allows the team to involve the right stakeholders from different areas of the project.

  4. Setting Clear Goals:

    Knowing the purpose and sequence of activities in the business processes helps the Six Sigma team set clear goals and objectives for the project. They can align these goals with the desired outcomes of the processes, ensuring that any improvements made will contribute to achieving specific results.

  5. Establishing Baseline Performance:

    Understanding the metrics and performance measurements associated with the business processes allows the team to establish a baseline for current process performance. This baseline helps in quantifying the process improvement achieved throughout the DMAIC methodology.

  6. Prioritizing Improvement Efforts:

    In the Define phase, the team must identify which processes are critical to the organization’s success and customer satisfaction. By knowing the core processes that generate revenue, retain customers, or provide valuable products/services, the team can prioritize improvement efforts in these high-impact areas.

  7. Aligning with Continuous Improvement Principles:

    The concept of continuous improvement is a central tenet of Six Sigma. Understanding business processes and their potential for optimization helps the team embrace this philosophy and approach the project with a mindset focused on continuous enhancement and waste reduction.


Optimizing business processes is essential for organizations striving for continuous improvement. By identifying and focusing on core processes, businesses can streamline their operations, generate revenue, and meet customer expectations. Incorporating targeted keywords, using subheadings, providing practical examples, and emphasizing the benefits will significantly enhance the quality and impact of articles on business process optimization.

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