Business Processes

This chapter looks at one way information systems can bring competitive advantage through their effect on business processes. As you read, think about the previous chapter on competitive advantage. How are the two concepts related?

What Is a Business Process?

Documenting a Process

Every day each of us will perform many processes without even thinking about them such as getting ready for work, using an ATM, texting a friend, etc. As processes grow more complex, documenting becomes necessary. It is essential for businesses to do this because it allows them to ensure control over how activities are undertaken in their organization. It also allows for standardization. For example, McDonald's has the same process for building a Big Mac in all of its restaurants.

The simplest way to document a process is to just create a list. The list shows each step in the process. Each step can be checked off upon completion. A simple process such as how to create an account on gmail might look like this:

  1. Go to
  2. Click "Create account".
  3. Enter your contact information in the "Create your Google Account" form.
  4. Choose your username and password.
  5. Agree to User Agreement and Privacy Policy by clicking on "Submit".
For processes that are not so straightforward, documenting all of the steps as a checklist may not be sufficient. For example, here is the process for determining if an article for a term needs to be added to Wikipedia:

  1. Search Wikipedia to determine if the term already exists.
  2. If the term is found, then an article is already written, so you must think of another term. Go to step 1.
  3. If the term is not found, then look to see if there is a related term.
  4. If there is a related term, then create a redirect.
  5. If there is not a related term, then create a new article.

This procedure is relatively simple. In fact it has the same number of steps as the previous example, but because it has some decision points, it is more difficult to track as a simple list. In these cases it may make more sense to use a diagram to document the process.

Diagram of an example business process