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Introduction To Business Processes Paper

Business Processes


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The fourth component of information systems is process. But what is a

process and how does it tie into information systems? And in what ways

do processes have a role in business? This reading will look to answer

those questions and also describe how business processes can be used

for strategic advantage.

What Is a Business Process?

We have all heard the term process before, but what exactly does it

mean? A process is a series of tasks that are completed in order to

accomplish a goal. A business process, therefore, is a process that is

focused on achieving a goal for a business. If you have worked in a

business setting, you have participated in a business process. Anything

from a simple process for making a sandwich at Subway to building a

space shuttle utilizes one or more business processes.

Processes are something that businesses go through every day in order to

accomplish their mission. The better their processes, the more effective

the business. Some businesses see their processes as a strategy for

achieving competitive advantage. A process that achieves its goal in a

unique way can set a company apart. A process that eliminates costs can

Learning Resource

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allow a company to lower its prices (or retain more profit).

Documenting a Process

Every day, each of us will conduct many processes without even thinking

about them: getting ready for work, using an ATM, reading our email, etc.

But as processes grow more complex, they need to be documented. For

businesses, it is essential to do this because it allows them to ensure

control over how activities are undertaken in their organization. It also

allows for standardization: McDonald’s has the same process for building

a Big Mac in all of its restaurants.

The simplest way to document a process is to simply create a list. The list

shows each step in the process; each step can be checked off upon

completion. For example, a simple process, such as how to create an

account on eBay, might look like this:

1. Go to ebay.com.

2. Click on “register.”

3. Enter your contact information in the “Tell us about you” box.

4. Choose your user ID and password.

5. Agree to User Agreement and Privacy Policy by clicking on “Submit.”

For processes that are not so straightforward, documenting the process

as a checklist may not be sufficient. For example, here is the process for

determining if an article for a term needs to be added to Wikipedia:

1. Search Wikipedia to determine if the term already exists.

2. If the term is found, then an article is already written, so you must

think of another term. Go to 1.

3. If the term is not found, then look to see if there is a related term.

4. If there is a related term, then create a redirect.

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5. If there is not a related term, then create a new article.

This procedure is relatively simple—in fact, it has the same number of

steps as the previous example—but because it has some decision points, it

is more difficult to track with a simple list. In these cases, it may make

more sense to use a diagram to document the process:

Wikipedia Term Search Process

Process for determining if a new term should be

added to Wikipedia.

Public Domain

Managing Business Process Documentation

As organizations begin to document their processes, it becomes an

administrative task to keep track of them. As processes change and

improve, it is important to know which processes are the most recent. It is

also important to manage the process so that it can be easily updated!

The requirement to manage process documentation has been one of the

driving forces behind the creation of the document management system.

A document management system stores and tracks documents and

supports the following functions:

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• Versions and timestamps. The document management system will

keep multiple versions of documents. The most recent version of a

document is easy to identify and will be served up by default.

• Approvals and workflows. When a process needs to be changed, the

system will manage both access to the documents for editing and the

routing of the document for approvals.

• Communication. When a process changes, those who implement the

process need to be made aware of the changes. A document

management system will notify the appropriate people when a

change to a document is approved.

Of course, document management systems are used not only for

managing business process documentation. Many other types of

documents are managed in these systems, such as legal documents or

design documents.

ERP Systems

An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a software application

with a centralized database that can be used to run an entire company.

Let’s take a closer look at the definition of each of these components:

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An Enterprise Resource Planning

(ERP) System

A software application with a centralized

database that can be used to run an

entire company

• A software application: The system is a software application, which

means that it has been developed with specific logic and rules

behind it. It has to be installed and configured to work specifically for

an individual organization.

• With a centralized database: All data in an ERP system is stored in a

single, central database. This centralization is key to the success of

an ERP—data entered in one part of the company can be immediately

available to other parts of the company.

• That can be used to run an entire company: An ERP can be used to

manage an entire organization’s operations. If they so wish,

companies can purchase modules for an ERP that represent different

functions within the organization, such as finance, manufacturing,

and sales. Some companies choose to purchase many modules;

others choose a subset of the modules.

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