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Editor's Note: In this two-part package, veteran BPM professional Artie Mahal breaks down a business process, piece by piece, into its key components. Here, Mahal-author of "How Work Gets Done: Business Process Management, Basics and Beyond" (Technics Publications LLC, 2010)--defines and describes the role of inputs, outputs and outcomes. In a companion piece, Mahal tackles two more critical elements: guides and enablers.

The definition of a business process is: a series of steps that produce something of value-products or services-for its stakeholders. It is simply "how work gets done." The stakeholders are those individuals or entities who have a vested interest in the process and would be the beneficiaries of the process results. The stakeholders can be both internal and external to the organization.

A process is typically represented by a diagram with supporting textual information. The name of a process is usually made up of a verb-noun combination and it may also have a unique identifier for reference. For example, a high-level process such as "Forecast Demand" may be assigned the 1.0 identifier. When further decomposed into its sub-processes, they will be identified as 1.1, 1.2, and so on. There are various objects that make up the structure of a process.

A process is initiated by an event. It receives inputs, which are transformed into outputs using guides to manage and control the process, and enablers--such as human resources, systems, data and infrastructure--to support execution of the process.


Inputs are provided by stakeholders and/or upstream business processes. They may be raw material, data or anything else that the process will transform into output. The inputs come from either some stakeholders or upstream business processes, or both. The input source may be internal or external to the organization.

An event or a trigger initiates the process at a certain time or within some time frame, for a specific reason: to deliver expected outputs with resulting outcomes through the execution of a relevant process. Here's the formula:

Trigger Event = Time + Purpose + Expected Outputs/Resulting Outcomes


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