MIT Sloan MIT Process Handbook

Process redesign using the MIT eBusiness Process Repository

There are many ways the MIT eBusiness Process Repository can be used. This guided tour illustrates one of these uses: process innovation.

To follow this tour, you can:

  1. Print out this window and follow the instructions, or,
  2. If you prefer to use an approach which doesn't involve printing,
    • use the 'Back' button on your browser to go back to the 'Guided Tours' page
    • Place your mouse cursor over 'Hiring Tour'
    • Click the right mouse button
    • Left click on 'open in new window'
    • Resize the two windows so they are side by side
    • Follow the step-by-step instructions
    • You may close this window when you have finished the tour.


This tour is based on the results of a research project at the MIT Center for Coordination Science. In the research project, MIT researchers worked with AT Kearney (a research sponsor) and one of their clients, referred to as 'Firm A' in the Repository to preserve its anonymity. Firm A was experiencing increasing problems with their hiring processes. They were growing rapidly in a tightening labor market and they had a culture of independent, competitive business units. Together, these factors led to increases in the time and cost of hiring people, and increasingly frequent instances of business units 'hoarding' candidates or bidding against each other for the same candidate.

In an effort to improve their hiring process, the organization invested a great deal of time and energy into 'as is' process analysis using conventional techniques such as flowcharting. But they also wanted a way to come up with highly innovative ideas about how to improve their processes. In this spirit, they decided to participate in the MIT research project. A study team of about eight people was formed with members from AT Kearney, Firm A, and MIT researchers

STEP 1: Finding the relevant process

The team's first step was simply to see how the hiring process was represented in the Process Repository. If you knew keywords used in the name or description of this process (like 'hire'), you could find this activity in the Repository by using the Search link in the left margin toolbar. Another way, which we suggest you use for this guided tour, is to look at processes grouped by business function. To do this

    • click on the next to 'Processes listed by business function'.

You should now see a list of business functions. The hiring process is likely to be under 'Human resources', so

    • click on the next to 'Human resources'.
    • Next, click on the next to 'General HR Processes'.
    • Now click on 'Hire human resources'

STEP 2: Parts and decomposition

The active window now shows a description of the process 'Hire human resources'. Scrolling down you can see the subactivities or parts of 'Hire human resources', a simple breakdown of the hiring process into its seven component parts.

An immediate insight gained from viewing the parts was the fact that the Process Repository representation of hiring includes a step of 'pay employee'. Even though they hadn't previously thought of it in this way, the team members from Firm A realized that an employee's receipt of a first paycheck is, in a sense, the logical culmination of the hiring process. Receiving a correct paycheck, for instance, confirms that the hiring information has been entered correctly in the relevant administrative systems.

You can click on any of the parts to break them down even further. There is no limit to the levels of parts that can be represented in the Process Repository. Therefore, we do not use a predetermined set of words to describe levels of a process (process, activity, task, etc.) but use the terms process and activity interchangeably. To see detail of how the parts break down,

    • Click on 'Receive employees' and you will note that it decomposes (opens) into a further level.
    • Click the Back button on your browser to return to 'Hire human resources'.

STEP 3: Related Processes (Other ways of performing process)

Firm A spent the majority of their employment budget on sourcing and selecting human resources, so we focussed on finding other ways to 'Select human resources.' The project team explored all of the different ways of doing 'Select human resources,' but for the purposes of this tour we will focus on 'paperless.'
    • Click on 'Select human resources'
    • Then click on 'Related processes' for examples of related processes.
    • click on 'Select human resources - paperless'.
    • click on Related processes once again.

The top section of this display is called 'Other ways ... can be done.' This lists processes that are different types or ways of doing the selected process. You will notice that there are a number of company names listed next to the processes {in curly brackets}. These are specific case examples of different ways of selecting human resources in a paperless manner, selected from published magazine articles or other sources and collected at MIT and Phios.

    • Click 'Select human resources - automated telephone {Marriott}'.

This example shows how Marriott Hotels use an automated telephone system to ask job candidates a series of questions about their qualifications and salary requirements. At the end of the call, applicants are immediately told if they're qualified for the position and invited to schedule an interview through the system's automated scheduling feature. Although not appropriate in many situations, this example was very thought provoking for the team. For example, the team members from Firm A thought this idea might be useful for entry-level positions.

This use of the Process Repository is similar to the traditional 'benchmarking' or 'best practice' approach of learning from other examples of the same process. Even here, however, our approach to categorization allows much richer ways of indexing and comparing large numbers of examples than other 'best practices' databases.

STEP 4: Related Processes (Other processes which this is a part of)

After exploring the various specializations of the subactivities of hiring, the team decided to look even farther afield at 'distant analogies' of the hiring process. To do this, we must return to the home activity for 'Hire human resources.'

    • Click 'History' in the left margin toolbar
    • Select and click 'Hire human resources' from the listed options

Now we will look at the other portions of this window. We have already explored the top section Other ways 'Hire human resources' can be done. The next section shows Processes where 'Hire human resources' is used. This is the reverse of drilling down into a process' parts, and provides a way of going to a broader grouping of activities which use this process as a part. The third section shows Other processes that are like 'Hire human resources,' or how hiring fits into a broader set of activities. This is the reverse of the top section 'Other ways ... can be done' and shows what types of activities the selected process is derived from.

Looking at the third section, Other processes that are like 'Hire human resources', Note how 'Hire human resources' is considered to be a type of buying. In retrospect, this connection may seem obvious (hiring is a form of buying someone's time), but this analogy had not been obvious to the project team, and it proved to be a very stimulating source of insights. For example, when we hire people, we usually don't even start the process until a specific need is identified (and usually a position is empty). In buying, however, we sometimes buy for inventory. Why couldn't we do something similar in hiring? We could, for example, hire people 'for inventory' in anticipation of future need. Or, we could have an inventory of pre-qualified candidates from which people could be selected when specific needs were identified, rather than having to start the entire process only after the need is identified.

Further investigation of 'Related processes' under 'Buy using what medium', for example, you see 'Buy over internet.' At the time this project was done (late 1996), the very idea of using the internet to find job candidates was novel. Now, however, this idea is well known and common practice. To see some more specific examples of buying over the Internet,

    • Click 'Buy over internet'.
    • Click 'Related processes'

Four types of internet purchasing processes are now shown. When we looked at these examples in early 1998, 'Buy in electronic store using auction triggered the idea that, in the labor market, there might come to be on-line auctions for bidding on jobs or bidding on employees. In fact, by mid-1999 we learned of several examples of this exact phenomenon taking place. To see specific examples of 'Buy using auction,'

    • Click on Buy in electronic store using auction/
    • Click on 'Related processes'

In exploring other aspects of buying, you will encounter examples like

  1. Motorola's extensive quality audits and rating systems for their suppliers
  2. Acer's different sourcing strategies for different kinds of materials
  3. General Electric's Internet-based system through which purchasing agents can find and compare suppliers
Not all of these examples are visible to guest users of the Process Repository, but each of these examples stimulated specific ideas about possible improvements in the hiring process for Firm A. Specifically,
  1. Quality ratings for recruiters
  2. Creating different hiring processes for different kinds of positions
  3. Identifying candidates using the Internet

While some of today's 'best practice' databases support cross-fertilization across industries within the same business function, we do not know of any others that support this kind of cross-fertilization across different business functions (e.g. from purchasing to human resources). Through these extensive inter-relationships between process types and parts, the MIT eBusiness Process Repository can serve your company as a valuable component of process management systems and innovative idea generation.

This concludes the tour. Please feel free to explore other parts of the MIT eBusiness Process Repository.