How would you describe a business process

Organizations and companies need to be flexible in order to stay connected in a dynamic environment. Organizations that are functionally and hierarchically structured are only able to do this to a limited extent. Multi-center network structures are more suitable for developing resources and potential and promoting innovation.

In such structures, business processes become the focus of interest. This is used to control and develop, and to shape the organization. The article describes in a simple form how business processes can be analyzed and presented.

What are business processes?

A business process is a clearly defined, standardized (regular) sequence of activities and decisions that are related to one another and are carried out step by step by clearly named actors or entities in order to achieve a specific organizational goal (output).

Business processes describe the regular (standardized, bindingly prescribed / agreed) exchange (the flow, the transformation) of matter, energy or information between (sub) systems. In contrast to the project, a business process will be run through repeatedly. It can be part of another (higher-level) business process or itself contain (subordinate) business processes or trigger them.

Business processes often go beyond functional system boundaries (units, departments, facilities, organizations) and are linked to form value chains in a service network.

Analyze processes and differentiate levels

A systematic process analysis is the starting point for a process description. In essence, it is about the question: "Who does what, when and with what?". If you investigate this question, you will find that operational processes can be represented on different (abstraction) levels, i.e. in different depths of detail.

Process descriptions usually begin with a representation (punctuation) of the so-called process landscape. It describes the core processes (the central process areas) on the primary level of service provision (e.g. the basic functions Martyria, Diakonia, Leiturgia in pastoral work), on the secondary level of the control processes (e.g. budget planning and control, personnel deployment and management) and on the tertiary level Support processes (e.g. personnel development, product development).

The core processes (process areas) in turn contain the business processes in the narrower sense. In the process area "Personnel deployment and management", for example, the following business processes can be located:

  • Allocation of tasks and projects within the framework of the annual planning
  • Introduction, implementation and evaluation of employee interviews
  • Planning, implementation and follow-up of business meetings.

Business processes can possibly be subdivided again by describing the individual work steps in detail. In this case one speaks of workflow or micro-flow. How differentiated process descriptions should be made must be decided on the basis of pragmatic aspects (interest in knowledge, purpose, workload).

Describe processes

Processes can be described in different ways. The graphic representation takes the form of flow charts (flow charts) and is particularly clear. The sub-steps of the process are systematically presented in their sequence and networking. As a rule, the characters (symbols, codes) according to DIN 66001 are used (see box above).


The following figure describes the simplest variant of accepting (booking) a hotel guest. Any prior registration or electronic booking, information about room prices, etc. or the handover of keys and further briefing of the hotel guest after the booking are not taken into account.

The advantage of process descriptions with the help of flow charts is their high level of clarity and memorability, which results from the graphic representation. The disadvantage is the considerable amount of work involved in creating and in particular updating (maintaining) such descriptions, even if only individual process elements have to be adjusted.

An alternative to the graphic description of business processes is the tabular form of representation. It can also be carried out very well with EXCEL. The following figure shows the basic structure of the display. A single process step is entered for each line. In the header you will find the characteristics (aspects) by means of which the individual processes (steps) are to be specified one after the other.

First, the respective process step is named (column 2 "Process step") And numbered (column 1"No.“) In order to be able to refer to it in the further course of the description. For example, when making decisions (i.e. different options for continuing to work in the process), it is necessary in column 5 "further“Indicate the number of the process step following the respective decision alternative.
It makes sense to specify which process step is involved in each case (column 4 "Art"). The following differentiation has proven itself:

S = start
Trigger for the process, e.g. receipt of a complaint (in the complaint management process description).

T = activity
Individual activity that is completely in the hands of the actor, e.g. "fill out application" or "formulate job advertisement".

U = subprocess / interface
Sub-processes (predefined processes, sub-programs) themselves comprise several individual activities and, if necessary, decisions, summarize these. It makes sense to use them (simplify the description) if such sub-processes are used in different processes, e.g. the information or consultation or decision (on the part of) committees or application and approval procedures.

Interfaces mark the initiation of another process (described elsewhere) that is not pursued further in the context of the currently available process description. Example: within the framework of complaint management, it is primarily a matter of establishing communication with the dissatisfied customer and taking immediate remedial action. This process can be described in a process. However, a complaint can also be the reason to review and adjust certain standard procedures. That would then be a process that plays a role in the context of quality or process management and is described there in detail. Within the process description of complaint management, this process would only be summarized as a sub-process "Review of the process design".

E = decision
Decisions are called for where processes branch out, i.e. different alternative courses of action arise. Example: Offer from a service provider is accepted / rejected. Different storylines follow from this.

A = graduation
Completion of the process, e.g. in the case of a recruitment procedure after the interview at the end of the probationary period.

In column 2 "Actor" the person (s) or instance (s) are named who are specifically operationally responsible for the respective process step (who exactly is doing this activity?).

In column 6 "Input / output"The (1) documents or specifications are named that are required or binding for this process step (input: e.g. strategic goals, training regulations, service agreement in the context of an employee interview). In addition, the results that are generated at this point in the process are recorded here (2) (output: e.g. a target agreement at the end of the employee interview, budget at the end of budget planning).

Column 7 "Explanation"Serves to explain the respective process step, if necessary, to name requirements or restrictions (e.g." observe legal requirements §§ ... ") or to describe the activity in more detail.

If there is a "sub-process / interface", column 8 "Details"For this purpose, the respective reference is named in the process manual, in which this is described in detail.


The example of a hotel booking shown graphically above is described in a table below. The advantage is that you can make changes or additions at any time without great effort.

The sense of process descriptions

Qualified process descriptions serve to standardize procedures in an organization. By reflecting on, optimizing, fixing and agreeing routines, procedures and processes are made transparent and accessible for continuous review and improvement.

The creation of process descriptions is indicated and makes sense if processes in organizational practice are intransparent, conflictual or inefficient (redundant). In large teams or networks that have a low or, conversely, a high structural complexity and require flexible cooperation, process descriptions are used to agree on common procedures, to agree on these in a binding manner, to continuously review and optimize them. If new full-time or voluntary employees are added and have to be trained, process descriptions can be very helpful and make training much easier and faster.

In addition, process descriptions are an indispensable prerequisite and a central component of quality management processes.

Creation of a process manual

Process descriptions are therefore systematically filed in a process manual, which clearly shows the procedures in the organization. The classification system (chapters, numbering) must be developed and determined with a view to the respective organization.

In addition to the process descriptions, the process manual includes all basic documents that standardize the procedure in the organization (statutes, rules of procedure, mission statement, corporate strategy, work field / job descriptions, service agreements, instructions for employee appraisals, ...)

It makes sense to locate the maintenance of the process manual structurally or in terms of personnel in order to ensure the update and thus the desired effects in the long term.