The business process template
A foundation and safety net for every
project improvement triumph


Requirements gathered? Business process management solutions designed? What's the next step?

What comes next - a user process specification - is the culmination of everything done so far, before going on to implement any process changes and improvements. Experience tells us that omitting this step is a recipe for disaster, no matter how small the improvement.

Some implementation strategies enable the user process specification to be developed in parallel with the initial phases of implementation. This business process template for the specification covers these eventualities.

User process specification

A user process specification (UPS), as outlined in this business process template, brings together all of the research, information including requirements, and solution designs.

The UPS has two main purposes:
  • It enables you and the business to check the integrity of the planned improvements - check that it all "hangs together". For example, will all of the requirements be fulfilled? Do the solutions properly satisfy the business drivers?

  • It is the bedrock for implementation planning and execution, and for guiding the delivery of the benefits.

Three important points about the UPS
Is a UPS still required if the improvements are small, even tiny? Yes, definitely. For very small changes, notes on one or two pages may suffice. Use the UPS business process template as a checklist. Even minor details that are overlooked can rear up and bite!
If business approval is required for process improvements, the UPS is not the business proposal or case. It provides input to the proposal but is never a suitable document as a business proposal. How can that be?

Business directors or managers who will say yes or no to a proposal are usually not much interested in the detail of the UPS. In fact, the UPS detail can obscure the essentials of a business proposal.
The UPS is part of the ongoing quality assurance process. You can expect to see specific quality assurance standards in the UPS. For major process improvements, the quality assurance process may be documented separately.


User process specification contents

This business process template has mandatory and optional sections.

Mandatory contents

Process overview.

The overview contains a summary description of:
  • The process goals
  • Performance standards
  • The business events that trigger the process
  • Functions related to the process
  • Staff roles to be involved in the process
  • Error handling
  • Other information

Business drivers.

These are the forces, directions, or factors that result in a business setting its goals and actions. This section states the specific drivers that are energising the implementation of these process improvements.

Context diagram.

This relates the process improvements to existing processes and functions. It shows interdependencies. It may also be supported by a business activity model showing major interactions with other processes. For more information, visit process-mapping.

Requirements

If the requirements are already be in a catalogue, this section can attach it as an appendix, or refer to it as a separate document.

Flowcharts - all levels.

These show the flow of activities that provide the solutions to satisfy the requirements and benefits. For more information, visit process-mapping.

Logical table model or software process description.

The logical table model sets out the logical flow of actions, omitting events such as waiting or other delays. It also provides more information about data.

The software process description replaces the logical table model where processes are primarily driven by the logic of the sequential steps in computer software programs. This is explained later in this page. Click here to go there now.

Business rules.

These are the business rules that will be used by the process.

Copies of documents used in process.

This is self-explanatory.

Copies of screen shots.

The screen shots will either be taken from existing software programs; or will be mock-ups to assist implementation.

Benefits to be delivered

This is self-explanatory. If the benefits are already be in a catalogue, this section can attach it as an appendix.

Implementation plan.

This will be a high-level outline plan. The detailed plan will be developed as part of implementation planning.

RAID-C.

This is an acronym for risks, assumptions, issues, dependencies, and constraints. The purpose is to bring all of these together and show how they are being handled.

GUI design.

This is in the category "essential most times". The Graphical User Interface is the name for what you look at on a computer screen in Microsoft Windows, MAC and in thousands of software application packages.

Visual presentation of information via the computer screen is a vital part of process efficiency. List here the GUI designs to be approved by you or your colleagues for any changes or improvements prior to going live.


IT involvement

An assumption in this business process template is that, if required by the process improvement, there is IT support in, or available to the business - a person, group, or a department.

The IT support will be responsible for preparing and specifying any additional information required for the IT side of processes. This business process template can be expanded by businesses to include IT-related if required.

If IT support or involvement is NOT available.....

Assuming that IT is required as part of the process improvement, but involvement of IT staff is not possible, add the following essentials to the process specification content list:

Document description.

This provides additional information about documents used in the process, for example, frequency of use.

Data usage.

Data being used by the process must be defined. The logical table model supplies information on usage.

Data relationships.

A simple table is used to show data relationships.


Optional content

Consider including some or all of these sections from the business process template.

Work practice table.

This table is a step by step description of the action to be taken by users operating the process. It can be the basis of a procedure issued to staff.

Quality standards and targets

In larger or complex process improvement projects, the quality assurance process may justify being documented separately. Quality standards must be logged before the start of implementation, otherwise it is likely that quality will over or undershoot the standards wanted by the business.

Management structure

Sometimes necessary for a full understanding of the process.

Staff grades

This details the staff grades, as defined by the business required for the tasks to be performed as part of the process.

Job descriptions

These may be required if new tasks or jobs are required by the process.

Salary bands

Changes in processes can increase or reduce staff responsibilities which can feed through to salary bandings.

Different types of data stores

The range of data stores grows ever wider - from the traditional computers and file servers, manual filing cabinets, desk in and out trays to a removable storage, general and specialised handheld devices, CDs, memory sticks, memory cards, and more.

A log will summarise the types of data stores being used, and who will use and be responsible for them in any improved process.

Business specifics

You may want to add one or more categories to cover matters specific to your business, for example, specialised types of equipment involved, collaborative ventures, resource and responsibility sharing.


The uses of software process descriptions

Some processes are primarily driven by the logic of the sequential steps in computer software programs. Billing, credit card approval, and stock management are examples. In a process of this nature, a software process description is most useful instead of the more detailed levels of flowcharts or logical table models.

The software process description includes:

  • A text overview of the scope of the software used in the process.

  • A flowchart (Level 1 only) of that overview.

  • The goals or purpose of the part of the process covered by software.

  • A list of the sections within the description.
For each section within the software process description:
  • A flowchart or text description detailing the steps within the section.
For each step in the section:
  • A description of the functionality in the step, how to use it, the expected outputs, and one or more screenshots used in the step. An example of a screenshot is shown below.

  • Performance parameters for all sections.

  • Error messages.

  • Security considerations.

  • Issues.

Important note: The variety in software processes is vast, so a healthy scoop of commonsense is needed when deciding what must go into a software process description.

A useful question to ask is "Has sufficient been included to enable another person in the business to understand and if necessary reconstruct the process?" If the answer is "Not yet", add to the description to secure a "Yes".

Screenshot example

The example below is a page from a process specification. It deals with the search function in an equipment maintenance process. It includes an image of the display screen and an explanation about each field on the screen.

This page is at the "coal face" - a user could apply the information to search for equipment. (However there will be a search procedure with additional business rules, for example about the three drop down lists.)

For IT components of a process, this page conveys at least as much information as an action on a flowchart together with logical table entries.


software process screenshot example


Where would you like to go now?

Click on any of these links to go to more on processes:

Time for a refresher overview on processes? Understand, discuss, and then act to deliver improvements to business processes.


Business processes explained: Upsides and downsides. How to find out more about a process. Top to bottom integration. Other names used.


Processes under stress? Check for symptoms with this quality assurance process - part of a business process management system


Process mapping: an essential skill for every business person that lasts a lifetime. Find out about the tools and how to do it.


Choosing your role in delivering any process change or improvement is a cornerstone of business process management tools.


Do you understand the difference between business requirements and solutions? Find out more about gathering business requirements.


Process improvement is a much more than just choosing process solutions. This business process template brings everything together.


Implementing business process improvements, tiny or major? Use this project management process with in-built project risk management.



Or would you like to:

Check out the checklist for putting together a business proposal or business case. Find out the essentials no matter how tiny or large.


Communicating is at the heart of success in business. Visit the home page for a refresher on the five steps in communication in business methods.