SIPOC: An Introduction for Beginners

We’re talking about what is SIPOC and how to use a SIPOC diagram.


if you’re involved in process improvement you’ve heard this term but if you haven’t.

Then let me explain what it is.

SIPOC definition

So first of all SIPOC is a tool that summarizes
the inputs and outputs of one or more processes in a table format.

And what it stands for it’s an acronym that stands for:

  • Suppliers
  • Input
  • Process
  • Output
  • Customers

Sometimes some organizations call it COPIS
and it’s the opposite because
they want to emphasize the value of the customers first.

So it’s:

  • Customers
  • Outputs
  • Process
  • Inputs
  • Suppliers

So the term and the tool came about
in the 80s and it was affiliated with a total quality movement.

And today it’s in use as part of Lean Six Sigma
or even BPM which is business process management.

Typical Use

So there are three typical uses depending on the audience.

So the first one is those who are unfamiliar with the process and who need an overview of it.

The second one is those who are familiar with the process
but they just because the process fades or changes they need to be reintroduced.

And then the third one is those who are familiar with the process
but they’re involved in redefining or defining a new process.


Let’s talk about a few of the components.

So the Suppliers and Customers may be:

  • Internal to the organization
  • External to the organization


Input and Outputs may be:

  • Materials
  • Services
  • Information

And then the focus is on capturing this set of
inputs and outputs rather than giving details about the process.

SIPOC example is the video above.

So as you can see this is just a simple example
that you can take back and begin creating your own SIPOC Chart.

The following sections were written by

I leave the word to Florence Meunier, a friend of LeanVlog with
years of experience in Lean Office and Communication Skills.
Florence Meunier CV

SIPOC is a LEAN Tool.

Are you clear on what’s coming into and out of your process?
Or are you at a crossroads and not sure of is clear in your project startup?

SIPOC as Crossroad

What is it?

It helps to develop a high-level understanding of a business process.

What does it do?

  • Defines project boundaries
  • Shows where to collect data from
  • Identifies your customers and suppliers, or stakeholders who need to be included in your project
  • Shows clearly the inputs and outputs. what is flowing in and out of your business process

How do I create a SIPOC?

Agree on the start and endpoints of your process

Ask yourself the questions

    • why does this process exist?
    • what is the purpose of this process?
    • what is the outcome as a result of performing this process?

Process column writes the high-level process steps, no more than 5-7 steps.
This is only a top-level flowchart.

Output column – here you add anything that comes out of the business process e.g.

Physical documents

  • Electronic documents
  • Information
  • Services
  • Decisions

You can ask these questions to help you decide on the outputs:

  • What product does this business process make?
  • At what point does the process end?
  • What information does this business process produce?

Customers column – write in all your customers whom you are serving.
They can be both internal and external customers

Inputs column – these may be an email request, a phone call, a purchase order, a physical product.
Although inputs are normally materials and information, they could also be ideas.

Questions to ask:

  • What flows into the process?
  • What triggers the process to start?

Suppliers column – add here where the information from your inputs column comes from:

  • What do they supply?
  • Where do they affect the process flow?
  • What effect do they have on the business process and the outcome?

Here is a template example of how a SIPOC diagram could look.

SIPOC Template Example


After creating the first few, they really do become easy, and are an essential reference tool to any project starting up.  It’s the first step that should be taken after creating a Project charter, or even before.



Skip the SIPOC… or not?

One question I asked at many of my earlier training was:

  1. Why is a SIPOC necessary?
  2. Does it really bring any benefit to defining a project or scope?
  3. Can I just skip it and use another tool in its place?

Since I am a curious person,

I have read many articles and training materials
to help me uncover the importance and necessity of a SIPOC:

  1. It’s the first High-Level process
  2. It helps create the Scope of the project
  3. It frames the process i.e. defines where a process starts and stops
  4. It contains only 5-7 process steps

SIPOC Examples:

A customer service representative
starts with order entry and finishes with order acknowledgment to the customer.

If shipping were included in the project, their endpoint would be when the product is shipped.
And for finance, their endpoint would be when the customer is invoiced and makes payment.

So it is important that especially when working with a cross-functional team,
the start and endpoints are clearly defined.

Three questions to ask when creating a SIPOC:

  1. Is the project focused on the appropriate customer?
  2. Do we understand what is critical to the customer and how to measure it?
  3. Does the measurement show significant sources of variation within the process?

SIPOC also helps define the Project team,
as you need individuals who can speak for all process steps from beginning to end, leaving no gaps.

So there is no right or wrong answer as to if the SIPOC tool should be used,
but it definitely helps in your improvement efforts
in aligning the proper customer and their key metric.

Here there are a couple of videos with SIPOC Examples: