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Curriculum Center Browse Bibliography Build EPacket Pricing Structure Distribution Process Management Control in Nonprofit Organizations
Note on Process Analysis
Heineke, Janelle
Functional Area(s):
   Operations Management
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Pages: 11
Teaching Note: Not Available. 
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First Page and the Assignment Questions:
Operations problems are a part of every management career.  An important first step to managing an operation is analyzing the operation's process.  A process is any conversion activity where inputs are transformed into outputs.  In a factory, materials, labor, and capital inputs are used to create finished products.  In a retail store, the output is a satisfied customer, while the inputs are the customers, goods for sale, and an effective service delivery system.  In a law office or accounting firm, both the inputs and the outputs are largely information:  professionals convert raw data into information for the specific needs of the client.

Process analysis involves understanding what the process does, how and why it does it, how effectively it works, and how it might be improved.  It is a diagnostic process that involves technical analysis, observation, and judgment, much like the diagnostic work of a physician.  Process analysis assesses the work or conversion activity performed by some working unit.  In general, four activities are involved:

1.  creating a process flow diagram,
2.  analyzing the operating unit structure,    
3.  analyzing the work flow, and
4.  evaluating the overall process.


For a concrete example of how to apply process analysis, consider some of the problems faced by a copy center in a School of Management, where packets of cases and other materials are put together for selected courses and sold to students.  All items at the copy center are either copied or purchased from an outside supplier.

The four components always specified in every process analysis are tasks (or operations), flows, decision points, and storages (or queues).  Drawing a diagram of the process is a useful first step.  In a typical process flow diagram, tasks are depicted as circles, flows as arrows, decision points as diamonds and storages as inverted triangles.

Figure 1 on the next page is a simplified process flow diagram that illustrates the preparation process for course packets.  The process begins when professors select collections of cases and readings for their courses and send them to the copy center.  Packets waiting to be processed are kept in storage.