Process discovery with SIPOC

BannerOne of the first challenges you meet when you start with BPM, or with business process architecture, is to find out which business processes are being run in your organisation; so you can map them – and improve them. 

This is why we call this Process Discovery. More recently, I recommended one of my customers to use SIPOC for this purpose; and with great success.

The simplicity and easiness of SIPOC

As it may be the first time you hear about this strange sounding term, let me first explain to you what SIPOC is about. It is actually nothing else than an acronym for the 5 following words :

  • Supplier
  • Input
  • Process
  • Output
  • Customer

If you never heard about it before, you then probably wonder “so what?” 

Why those 5 words?

Any business process – even any task of a process – has at least 1 input and at least 1 output. Not necessarily tangible or physical ones. Indeed, those may be – paper or digital – documents, e.g. information or data, etc.  And certainly not always final output(s) either; they may be intermediary ones as well. 

This means that someone – a person, a team, an external company, or an upstream business process – delivers the input(s), what we call the supplier

On the other hand, anyone will use the process output(s); if not, then the process has no reason for being and is pure “waste”.  

You probably begin to understand the advantages of the S-I-P-O-C acronym… It helps for any business process – whatever level of abstraction it is, even for a simple task of a process – to discover the 4 types of artefacts around (up- and downstream) the process or the task.


The power of SIPOC 

The great advantage of SIPOC is that by identifying all elements around a certain business process, you will easily discover the relation of this process with other business processes, through in- and outputs, suppliers and customers.  

Or even better: knowing even only 1 output or input may help you to (start to) identify or to discover all the business processes and tasks of your company.

A simple example of using SIPOC for Process Discovery

Assume that your company deals with car repair. There is at least 1 (final) Output you are sure about: repaired carsSipoc2

Hence, you identify a business Process: “Repair the car”.

Further thinking about the SIPOC elements, you identify some Inputs : to repair a car, you obviously need the defective car, and most often spare parts as well.

Sipoc4Now, you look behind the Suppliers behind these inputs. And you find that spare parts are delivered by the OEM or spare part supplier; while the defective car is provided by the car owner or the driver.

Then you try to find out which customer(s) may be corresponding to the Output(s), and you discover that the customer for the repaired car is the driver. Mind that the driver being a supplier and a customer as well is rather a coincidence and exceptional. Sipoc7

Reflecting even more in depth, you realise that to repair the car, you also need the instructions as an Input.

And that the Supplier of these instructions is the car manufacturer.

Also reflecting more in depth in the downstream side of the process, you realise that repairing the car also generates another Output: waste, among others the worn spare part which you need to replace by a new one. And finally, you identify the corresponding Customer of this output, which is the waste recycler.


Now the SIPOC for the “repair the car” process seems to be quite complete, you want to identify its upstream and downstream business processes. And this gives you the following (BPMN) process diagram, illustrating these upstream and downstream processes

Indeed, once your customer has collected his repaired car, you need to invoice him – at least if you want to be paid for the repair. And this is followed by a “Manage accounts receivable” process. 

For the recycling company to collect waste, you will need to pay, which means that you will have a “Manage Accounts payable” process following the waste collection as well.


As you see, once you have identified the SIPOC elements, it is quite easy to identify other business processes, whether these are your own (internal) processes, or whether those are the ones of your supplier(s) or the ones of your customer(s).

Have you used the SIPOC concept already?  Please share your experience and how you used it, through below Comments box.

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