Tales of a BA: Framing processes with the SIPOC diagram

Follow William in his Business Analysis journey at Universal Gizmos! (episode 1.01)

Tales of a BA: Framing processes with the SIPOC diagram

Being a Business Analyst on a new project can be daunting, and it’s even harder when you’re new in the organization too! In this situation, one of the best techniques to quickly frame a business process and the context around a new project is the SIPOC diagram. In this first episode of Tales of a BA, we’ll see how William, our newly hired BA at Universal Gizmos, uses it to get a better understanding of his new project, in his new organization.

You’ll need a good 10 minutes to read this article and get the most value of it.  If you don’t have enough time in front of you, email yourself a reminder!

A new day at Universal Gizmos Inc.

Today is the first day of Wiliam Anderson at the head office of Universal Gizmos (UG), an international organization operating on 3 continents and selling a large portfolio of gizmo solutions to its customers.  William was hired as a Business Analyst in the UG’s Business Solutions Center of Excellence.

William didn’t know a lot about the organization before getting hired, but he hopefully found interesting information about UG in the latest annual report available on the company’s website. He previously worked as a Business Systems Analyst in a large manufacturing company, so he has some business knowledge that could help him to integrate his new role.

He was given his first project assignment quickly but didn’t get so much information about it. William’s director told him that Simon Jackman, UG’s Human Capital VP, was pushing really hard to solve a major problem in the new hire onboarding process: the major delays in the process were making new employees inefficient and were giving them a bad first impression of UG.  William was one of the lucky new hires that got all he needs on his first day, but most employees are waiting for as long as one week to be up and running (while the company goal is to have no delay at all!)

The various subprocesses of the new hire onboarding process were already being analyzed by William’s new colleagues.  William was tasked to work on the access rights management subprocess required by new employees (to get things such as access cards, systems logins, etc.)

Johan, another BA in William’s team, guided him on some preliminary work done on this process in the past for another initiative. William decided to start with the partial SIPOC diagram that was produced at this time to prepare his first workshop with Simon and get a better grip on the access rights management process.

The SIPOC Diagram in a nutshell

Why use the SIPOC diagram?What’s in a SIPOC diagram?How to fill the SIPOC diagram?

The SIPOC diagram is one of the BABoK proposed methods to support the Process Analysis technique. It’s a simple yet powerful table that summarizes the boundaries of a business process. It’s quick to build compared to process diagrams but doesn’t provide much information about what’s going on inside the process.

Its simplicity also makes it a good starting point for almost anyone in an organization, since it doesn’t require a specific notation knowledge to be understood.

It’s very helpful when starting a new project since it defines what should be included in the scope and what should stay outside of it, based on business processes, not on underlying systems.  You can use the SIPOC diagram as a tool to capture and structure critical information in the early phases of a project, as well as a key document to help stakeholders to focus on a given scope until the delivery of a project.

Related post:   Tales of a BA: bringing Business Analysis templates to life!

Looking for more information? Check this and this. You can also take a look at the Process Analysis technique in the BABoK (section 10.34).

From its name, you can easily guess the basic elements that can be found in the SIPOC diagram.

Suppliers & Inputs
Processes
Outputs & Customers

These elements are the basic components of the SIPOC diagram.  However, I like to add some additional information to it to provide more context around the processes being analyzed.

Process Owner
Interactions in the value chain
Process Objectives

I like to use the SIPOC diagram to structure the information you can gather from different sources (like written documentation, interviews, etc.) at the beginning of a project.  Since it’s a very simple diagram, it’s also easy to work collaboratively with stakeholders to define its content.

Related post:   Tales of a BA: bringing Business Analysis templates to life!

The best way to start filling a SIPOC diagram is to start with the high-level steps of a process (since these are often the most known part of the diagram), and then fill the other elements as they are discovered.

Once completed, the diagram will become your reference to define your project scope. This doesn’t mean that it can’t evolve over time as you discover new information, but updates to the SIPOC diagram must be done with a shared agreement among stakeholders (and your process owner!)

The SIPOC diagram in action at Universal Gizmos

Using the various pieces of information provided by his colleague Johann, William was able to prepare a partial SIPOC diagram that he used in his first workshop with Simon, the Human Capital VP.  He also invited Martin Smith, the Corporate Security Director, as well as Mary Temple, the Real Estate Operations Director, who are both involved closely in the access rights management process.

William didn’t know a lot about the processes.  He knew that the employee initiated the request on the corporate intranet, request that was reviewed then approved before being processed.  The processing of the request was different depending on the type of access required, and some of these types were requiring actions from external partners (such as the real estate manager in some offices). Moreover, this process was a sensible once, since it was interrelated with many other processes such as the new hire onboarding process. This led him to create the first version of a SIPOC diagram.

During the workshop, William used the SIPOC diagram to share his knowledge of the process so far, which initiated some interesting discussions on its various dimensions. William was able to fill in the blanks after the workshop based on the conversations they had had.  Simon, Martin, and Mary had no difficulty to review the diagram after the meeting, and everyone agreed on its content.

William was all set up for his next mission 🙂

Get the exclusive SIPOC diagram prepared by William!

Learning Business Analysis is all about applying concepts to real-life situations. With the Tales of a BA series, you have the unique opportunity to get not only reusable templates but also real deliverables prepared by William as he works his way through various projects at Universal Gizmos.

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In the next episode of Tales of a BA

While gathering information about the business processes he has to study, William also captured important data about other dimensions of his project.  In the next episode of Tales of a BA, we’ll see how William can use stakeholders analysis to get a better understanding of the organization and improve his interventions with the various stakeholders he’ll meet on his journey.

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