Business Process Flow Qualities

Business Process Flows are a great tool for users,
if they are clear, concise, complete, and correct™.  
They are usually cross-functional and use the Swim Lane format.



BusinessProcess Flows are a great tool for users, if they are clear, concise, complete, and correct™.  They are usually cross-functional and use the Swim Lane format.  Cross-functional Flows provide the following benefits:

  • An overview that quickly puts the Process in context and promotes further understanding for a procedure

  • A view of other functional areas in a Process, thus lessening the silo effect

  • A basis for agreement using a common document, which is the Flow

A Business Process is a type of Process designed to achieve a specific Business objective.  There are Business Processes for creating a purchase order, receiving a shipment, or answering a customer’s questions.  In fact, there is a Process for just about every Business task.  Processes can be manual or automated, simple or complex, formal or informal, known or unknown.

A Process Flow is a graphical representation of a Business Process.  It represents the entire Process from start to finish, showing inputs, paths, action or decision points, and completion.  A Process Flow can identify the logic behind a Function or Task.  An As-Is Flow is the actual or current Process, while a To-Be Flow is the proposed or changed Process.  A Process Flow may identify various types of information (for example, non-value added tasks, repeated tasks, or control points) that a simple Flow would not identify.  Therefore, a Process Flow can investigate and identify issues the enterprise or department want to view.

Business Processes may have the following components:

  • Data needed to accomplish a Business objective

  • Tasks that create or change data

  • Decisions that create or change the data

  • Control Points for statutory requirements

  • Error correction tasks

  • Departments who perform tasks

  • Owners of the task or Process

Hierarchy of a Business Process

Great care and analysis should be given to the breakdown of Functions, Processes, and Sub Processes.  The breakdown is commonly referred to a Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 flows, and only as required, Level 4 flows.  The Level indicates the type of information and the level detail of the flow.


Business Processes - Level 1, 2, 3, 4

Level 1

A Level 1 flow would be a Function, which is a high-level activity of an enterprise. Functional Flows primarily will be Logical Flows.  If too much information is added, they will become too complex.  Keep the Functional Flow relatively simple, showing the major Processes.

  • Functions are the highest level of a Process Flow.

  • Functions consist of multiple Processes (Procure to Pay). 

  • Functions are usually Cross-Functional (Purchasing, Receiving, Accounts Payable).

Level 2

A Level 2 flow would be a Process, which is a task within a Business area or Functional area (Purchasing).

  • A Process is usually Cross-Functional.  These are the major tasks within a Function.

  • Processes are tasks that have a beginning and an end.  They transform data and will have a higher level of detail than Functions.

  • Processes can be decomposed into other Processes or into Sub Processes (Create PO, Receive Material, Receive Invoice).

Level 3

A Level 3 flow would be a Sub Process, which is the lowest-level activity.  Processes consist of multiple Sub Processes.  Usually a Sub Process will correlate to procedures.

  • Sub Processes are specific tasks that transform data.  A Sub Process cannot be further decomposed (Enter PO Data, Approve PO, Send PO to Vendor).  However, based on the size of the enterprise and scope of the Function, the number of Sub Processes will vary.

Level 4

A Level 4 flow would be a further breakdown of a Sub Process.  For unusually complex processes, or to show specific information (for example, error task) a Level 4 flow would be appropriate.  However, do not use Level 4 flows as a catch-all or due to lack of planning.

The following is an example of the Level 1, 2, and 3 Flows, and their breakdown structure.


Process and Sub Process Flow