Building a Process Catalog: Final Steps

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This is the final article in my series on building a process catalog for the organization in which I work.  For reference and context, you can find the first three articles at these links:  Building a Process Catalog: The Journey Begins; Building a Process Catalog, The Ongoing Journey; and Building a Process Catalog: Moving Ahead.

As we have wrapped up the calendar year, the Process Catalog that we began last October finally can be completed.  Below is a brief recap of the stages we’ve gone through to get the catalog to the current state. 


Over a year ago, our 50 person, 7 department business unit began capturing the major processes of each work group at a high-level, using a modified SIPOC (Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer) model.  Approximately 24 discrete activities were identified, and a SIPOC done for each one.  Most managers had three to four processes diagramed, and some were broken into sub-processes where the work was complex, or there were multiple deliverables or customers identified.

We documented the major activities used in each group to transform their inputs into outputs, named the suppliers and customers and examined feedback loops – or lack thereof – from the customer and back to the suppliers.

One of the benefits that sold our proposal to undertake this effort was assigning an owner to each of the processes.  At the time, there were no formal process resources within the group so we named the department managers as the process owners for the major activities within their areas.  During the facilitated sessions as we created the SIPOC diagrams, each department leader was asked to consider how they measure the value that their activities bring to the business.

Two variations were made to the standard SIPOC diagram.  One was adding a section for the Conditions of Customer Satisfaction, which I defined in the second installment of this series.  It is an attempt to capture not just the customer’s minimum or stated requirements, but state what the customer truly gains from the deliverable.  Our Sr. Leader made another variation to this model and asked us to name a single person as the principal customer.  In most cases SIPOCs will name a category or group that represents their ultimate user.  In this case, Our VP asked the question “Who would cry if you stopped doing this activity?” 

A critical piece of the diagram that confirms the value of the activity is the solicitation of periodic, formal feedback from their customers, and how our teams provide requirements and conditions of satisfaction back to their suppliers.  In many cases, we discovered that the requirements, metrics, and feedback mechanisms had yet to be defined, or had not been confirmed with the customers and suppliers in some time.

In the most recent article, I described how the SIPOCs were used to create action plans based on the gaps discovered, such as addressing the feedback loop mechanisms, both forwards and backwards, and planning ongoing conversations with those involved in the chain.

Final Steps

The most recent and most exciting part of this journey was having our leadership use these diagrams and the catalog to prioritize our work for the coming year.  First each manger was asked to force rank their own activities.  In addition to prioritization, we included Red/Yellow/Green indications of their ability to deliver a quality product, and a field for the perceived value of the work using a High/Medium/Low.  We then began having joint discussions about the relative priority of all the work done in the department, our overall ability to deliver the highest ranked deliverables, and an examination of work that was perceived as having medium or low impact to the business. 

A sample of the format we used for the prioritization exercise is below:



Priority (1-N)

Value to Business (H/M/L)

Ability to Deliver (R/Y/G)

Link to SIPOC

The prioritization exercise led to conversations about whether to start conversations to discontinue some of the work that is duplicative or perceived as low value to the business. We also used these conversations to reallocate staff or consider new headcount.

The final Process Catalog has taken the shape of a SharePoint collaboration site.  The columns above are used as metadata in a list, and each item has a link to the SIPOC diagram.  These will evolve over time, as each team confirms their customers’ requirements and conditions of satisfaction.

The most satisfying part of this journey has been in the recognition of the managers about what they don’t know about their own processes, and the realization that there is a continuous flow of information that must take place in the supply chain of the activities.  The metrics and feedback loops are a way for them to seek clarity on the value of their work – that their teams are not just “doing stuff”, but are engaged in activities that contribute value to the enterprise and their customers.  It was gratifying to see the teams begin conversations with their suppliers about what could be improved and what was working well, and set up regular mechanisms to check in with the customers and adjust accordingly. 

The Process Catalog is now in place, and in a way that is the end of this particular chapter.  But now that the managers and their teams have a more comprehensive picture of how the work they do contributes to the larger goals of the enterprise, it is also the first step in a longer journey.  Our leadership now wants to revisit the catalog once every quarter to reprioritize and update the SIPOC diagrams as needed, and to begin documenting the As-Is lower-level processes as a starting point for streamlining and reducing non-value-added activities. 


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