Process Management

Process Management

Every organisation aims to realize its vision, mission, objectives, and policies, which means that appropriate activities have to be undertaken. To return to the example of the restaurant, appropriate activities include buying vegetables, bookkeeping, ordering publicity material, receiving guests, cleaning tables, peeling potatoes, and making coffee. With just such an unstructured list, something will be left out and we will easily become confused. It is, therefore, a better idea to structure the activities. Preferably they should be arranged such that we can see how each group of activities contributes to the objectives of the business, and how they are related.

Such groups of activities are known as processes. If the process structure of an organisation is clearly described, it will show:

  • What has to be done
  • What the expected result is
  • How we measure if the processes deliver the expected results
  • How the results of one process affect those of another process

The question in figure 1 arises constantly in the process-based approach typical of modern IT Service Management. The tools to answer these questions are shown in figure 1.

Figure 1 Process improvement model


When arranging activities into processes, we do not use the existing allocation of tasks, nor the existing departmental divisions. This is a conscious choice. By opting for a process structure, we can often show that certain activities in the organisation are uncontrolled, duplicated, neglected or unnecessary. A process is a logically related series of activities conducted toward a defined objective. Instead, we look at the objective of the process and the relationships with other processes. A process is a series of activities carried out to convert the input into an output. We can associate the input and output of each of the processes with quality characteristics and standards to provide information about the results to be obtained by the process. This produces chains of processes which show what goes into the organisation and what the result is, as well as monitoring points in the chains to monitor the quality of the products and services provided by the organisation.

The standards for the output of each process have to be defined such that the complete chain of processes meets the corporate objective if each process complies with its process standard. If the result of a process meets the defined standard, then the process is effective.  If the activities in the process are also carried out with the minimum required effort and cost, then the process is efficient. The aim of process management is to use planning and control to ensure that processes are effective and efficient.

We can study each process separately to optimize its quality. The process owner is responsible for the process results. The process manager is responsible for the realization and structure of the process and reports to the process owner. The process operatives are responsible for defined activities, and these activities are reported to the process manager.

Figure 2 Process diagram

The logical combination of activities results in clear transfer points where the quality of processes can be monitored. In the restaurant example, we can separate responsibility for purchasing and cooking, so that the chefs do not have to purchase anything and possibly spend too much on fresh ingredients that do not add value. The management of the organisation can provide control on the basis of the quality of the process as demonstrated by data from the results of each process. In most cases, the relevant performance indicators and standards will already be agreed upon. The day to day control of the process can then be left to the process manager. The process owner will assess the results based on a report of performance indicators and whether they meet the agreed standard. Without clear indicators, it would be diffelcult for a process owner to determine whether the process is under control and if planned improvements are being implemented. Processes are often described using procedures and work instructions. Figure 3 shows the process model based on the ITIL approach.

Figure 3 Generic ITIL process model

Most businesses are hierarchically organized. They have departments that are responsible for a group of employees. There are various ways of structuring departments, for example by the customer, product, region or discipline, IT service generally depend on several departments, customers or disciplines. For example, if there is an IT service to provide users with access to an accounting program on a central computer, this will involve several disciplines. The computer center has to make the program and database access, the data and telecommunications department has to make the computer center accessible, and the data and telecommunications department has to make the computer center access, and the PC support department has to provide users with an interface to access the application.

Processes that span several departments can monitor the quality of a service by monitoring certain aspects of quality, such as availability, capacity, cost , and stability. A service organisation will then try to match these qualities aspects with the customers demands. The structure of such processes can ensure that good data is available about the provision of services, so that the planning and control of services can be improved.

Figure 4 processes and departments

This figure shows a basic example of the combinations of activities in a process (Indicated by the dashed lines).

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Eddie Potts

Principal ITSM Consultant +44 (0)7595 205885