You’ve Been Framed

So, you have decided to create some UPN process content.  You may have started with Purchase-to-Pay, Hire-to-Retire or Quote-to-Cash.  Or perhaps you did some process mapping to help with some pain point analysis. After a while these process islands feel a bit disjointed.  You need a way to organise them into a cohesive whole.  I was in exactly this situation at one company I worked for.

Or, you have decided to start at the top and map a high level process for the entire company.  You have the benefit of a green-field site, but when you start with a blank page, where do you start?  You tried getting the exec team to sit down with you to map out the top level but decided that, on balance, herding cats while blindfold would be easier.

What to do?


This stuff is hard but there is a way to kick-start your process efforts or get your arms round the processes you have already developed?.  After all, you can’t be the first person to have this dilemma right?  And, while every company is unique, there must be commonality in the way we all hire and fire, buy and sell, run finance and accounting?  And there must be some best practice ways of doing things?

Unsurprisingly there’s an answer to all those questions – frameworks.

Framework Types

There are two types of process framework – those that define process and those that evaluate the quality of a process / organisation.

Process / Organisational Quality

You may be familiar with this type of framework.  ISO has lots of them including the ubiquitous ISO 9001 Quality Management Standard

But that’s a subject for another day.

Process Definition

This is the place to start and you’ll need to decide which framework(s) to choose.  Because some frameworks focus on a very specific operation you may need to be use several to cover your entire process.

The list of specific frameworks includes:

… but I will focus on the APQC Process Classification Framework (PCF) which has a generic cross-industry version and a variety of industry specific versions.


APQC is a US not for profit org.

APQC (American Productivity & Quality Center) helps organizations work smarter, faster, and with greater confidence. It is the world’s foremost authority in benchmarking, best practices, process and performance improvement, and knowledge management. APQC’s unique structure as a member-based nonprofit makes it a differentiator in the marketplace. APQC partners with more than 500 member organizations worldwide in all industries. With more than 40 years of experience, APQC remains the world’s leader in transforming organizations.

The PCFs are compatible with UPN because the descriptions use a concise verb and noun construction for each step, and the content is organised in a hierarchy that matches UPN’s.

The APQC Generic PCF, presented as an Elements Reference Model

Click here for the Cross-Industry PCF and here for the industry specific versions

The good news is that most UPN vendors support linking an activity box to one or more  framework node.  TIBCO Nimbus allows you to create a process map from a framework.  Elements has an APQC reference model example process map that you can copy, and both products allow you to import process frameworks from Excel (CSV) files into their proprietary framework functionality.

APQC PCF as a process accelerator

APQC PCFs provide the activities, but they don’t include the concept of flow lines to link the activities together, so there is no flow line text.  That means no inputs or outputs, which are a necessary part of UPN.

The bad news is that you have some work to do to devise and apply the inputs and outputs.  But there’s a silver lining.  Adding the line text is going to make you think hard about the PCF steps and validate whether they work for your company.  As APQC put it:

It is designed as a framework and global standard to be customized for use in any organization. Thus, the PCF does not list all processes within a specific organization, and every process listed in the framework does not exist in all organizations.

At the end of the exercise you will have a thorough familiarity and understanding of the framework which will allow you to know where to:

  • Tie in your existing processes
  • Build those you don’t have

The advantages of APQC

Well, obviously it’s faster than starting from zero.  That’s a given.  But there are others:

  • The common language allows you to benchmark your processes
  • It allows you have more comfortable conversations with auditing groups, because you are holding your company up to a recognised, global standard.

There are many other accelerators based on value streams such as Purchase-to-Pay, Hire-to-Retire, Quote-to-Cash and Record-to-Report.  But all of these are subsets of The APQC PCF, the mother of all accelerators which makes that a good place to start.




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