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ChangeWise QuickRead : What is a SIPOC and when should I use one?

When starting an improvement project, have you ever struggled to agree which elements of your business processes are relevant and in scope? This is a common issue for many of our clients at ChangeWise, and we often suggest using a SIPOC diagram to help.

Where did the SIPOC tool originate?

SIPOC originates from the 1980s and forms part of the total quality movement.

What is a SIPOC?

SIPOC stands for Supplier, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customer. It is a structured approach to providing a high-level overview of the scope of a project and is a variant of process mapping.

What are the benefits of using a SIPOC?

The SIPOC acts as a high-level visual management tool for ensuring the project team have a holistic view of the process, and more importantly, for the purpose of project scope – where the process starts and where it finishes.

It also encourages the team to think about and agree who the internal and external customers are, and who supplies into a given process. It can help to highlight any inputs and outputs that have potential gaps or are simply unnecessary (Non-Value-Add).

How do I create a SIPOC for my business process?

A SIPOC is best created as a brainstorming exercise in a team setting. Post-It notes are great, as they allow the team to remove/reorder steps as the various elements are agreed.

As an example, imagine we have a process in our organisation that uses a courier to deliver a product to clients. The example below looks at the complaints process for delivery issues. 

Step 1: Process

Agree where the process starts and finishes. This should be 4-5 high-level steps – it is important that the team agree on this:

Step 2: Define the outputs of each process step.

This could be approvals, paperwork, data, reports, emails, calls – anything created as a result of the process step.

Step 3: Agree the customers in the process:

This includes external and internal customers affected by the process and outputs. Each process step should have at least one customer.

Step 4: Identify the inputs:

This could be people, machines, materials or reports – anything that triggers the process.

Step 5: List all those who supply into the process:

Anyone who triggers or impacts an output should be listed here.

In Summary

A SIPOC acts a great technique for mobilising projects, agreeing scope and ensuring the project team are aligned. It creates a holistic view of an operation and acts as a great problem-solving tool as well as forming the basis of a plan to walk the process (Gemba).

Want to learn more about creating a SIPOC to help define the scope for your process improvement project? Contact us at

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