As discussed in Operations management, a process is the set of steps employed to carry out a specific business or organizational activity. In other words, a process maps the set of actions that an individual, a group or an organization must enact in order to complete an activity. Consider the job of a grocery store manager and the process he engages in when restocking an inventory of goods for sale. The store manager must:
- check the inventory of goods for sale and identify the needed items
- call individual suppliers for quotations and possible delivery dates
- compare prices and delivery dates quoted among several suppliers for the same goods
- select one or more suppliers for each of the needed items based on the terms of the agreement (e.g. availability, quality, delivery)
- call these suppliers and place the orders
- receive the goods upon delivery, checking the accuracy and quality of the shipped items; pay the suppliers
Note that there are multiple viable processes that an organization can design to complete the same activity. In the case of the grocery store, the timing and form of payment can differ dramatically, from cash on delivery to direct transfer of the payment to the supplier’s bank account within three months of the purchase. The critical insight here is that the design of the process must fit with the other components of the information system and be adjusted when changes occur. It must also meet the unique needs of the organization. For example, imagine the grocery store manager purchasing a new software program that enables her to get quotations from all of the suppliers in the nearby regions and place orders online. Clearly the preceding process would need to change dramatically, and the store manager would need to be trained in the use of the new software program—in other words, changes would also affect the people component.