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Using SIPOC to Define ITIL® Processes

June 19, 2015
Michael Scarborough


This white paper describes a technique for defining processes called SIPOC (Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers). SIPOC provides a structured way to define the key elements of any process. SIPOC can be used as a means of defining any of the service management processes presented in ITIL® best practices. Furthermore, SIPOC can be used as the preliminary input into the more formal documentation of a process in one of many process design tools.


In this white paper, the process definition using SIPOC is described. SIPOC is a tool often associated with SixSigma and other quality improvement activities that are used to define the key elements of a process. SIPOC stands for:

- Suppliers

- Inputs

- Process Steps

- Outputs

- Customers

SIPOC provides a structured method for defining a high-level overview of any process that is focused on the results that the customers of the process receive.

Various Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) processes can be defined using SIPOC. In this white paper, we use a simple example that describes definition of a change management process based on ITIL best practices.

This white paper concludes with a brief discussion of next steps once a SIPOC table is completed for a process, specifically, using the information in a SIPOC table to formally document a process in a tool such as Microsoft Visio or IBM WebSphere Business Modeler.

What is SIPOC?

Process definition and improvement efforts often make slow progress because of lack of an adequate tool to show the high-level elements of a process, and how those elements relate to each other. SIPOC is a tool that can be used to define the key elements of a process, as well as how those elements interact with each other. SIPOC provides a visual, end-to-end representation of a process.

SIPOC is an acronym that stands for:

Suppliers: Suppliers are internal or external entities that produce something such as a good, service, or information that is consumed as an input by the process. A process can have one or more suppliers.

Inputs: Inputs are discrete items such as a goods, services, or information that are consumed by the process. Processes can have one or more inputs.

Process Steps: Process Steps are the structured and specific activities that transform a process's inputs into one or more defined outputs. A process can have one or more steps.

Outputs: Outputs are the intended and actual results of the process. Outputs can include goods, services, information, or other specific units. A process can have one or more outputs.

Customers: Customers are the internal or external entities that receive the value of a process by consuming one or more of its outputs. A process can have one or more customers.

The origin of SIPOC is somewhat of a mystery. There is some evidence that it is related to or based on Deming's system diagram. Additionally, the SIPOC approach is somewhat similar to the input-process-output pattern used in systems analysis and design. Despite all of these links, there is little clear evidence that points to the origin of SIPOC.

Benefits of SIPOC

SIPOC provides an easy-to-learn method of providing a high-level view of a process and its key elements.

Some specific benefits include the following:

- SIPOC provides a way for people who are unfamiliar with a process and the elements of a process to quickly develop a high-level understanding.

- SIPOC also can be used as a way to help people maintain familiarity with a process over time.

- SIPOC often is used in the definition of new processes because it provides an easy-to-use way of organizing and viewing the key aspects of a process. It other words, SIPOC provides an easy-to-use "starting point" for process definition.

- SIPOC helps people understand all of the inputs consumed by a process, as well as all of the outputs created by a process, including those outputs that aren't necessarily desirable.

- SIPOC can be used to document the current state of a process, as well as the desired or future state of a process.

Many process definition and reengineering efforts struggle to get started because of information overload about processes in use. SIPOC helps organizations overcome this information overload roadblock by specifically focusing process definition on its five key elements.

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