Customer Desire Drives Process Definition

In the  Process Definition and Characteristics post, we read about the key characteristics of a process, viz.:

  • Delivering of a desired outcome
  • Activities that are interdependent
  • Consumption of resources

Beginning with this post and over the next few posts, I would like to bring up different perspectives of the phrase ‘desired outcome’ with relevance to process definition.


To start with, let us look at some of the questions related to ‘desire’:

“Who desires the outcome?”

Most successful businesses consider customers to be their primary driver. Businesses aim to deliver what their customers need (or desire). From the definition of process, this means even the process is meant to deliver the customers’ desired outcome – not the business owner’s. Therefore, it makes sense to define processes from the point of view of the customer.

The question now arises “How are processes defined from customer perspective? Especially those where there are no customer touch points?” This is where the concept of primary and secondary processes comes in handy. Those processes that result in a product or service received by the business’s external customer are referred to as primary processes. While others that are not seen or felt by the external customer but are essential to effectively manage the business are called secondary processes.

In primary processes, the consumers are external customers. In secondary processes, the consumers are internal customers such as employees, vendors, other departments within the company, etc. No matter where the customers are located, processes can be managed most effectively when defined from a customer perspective.

 “How can the desire be interpreted as customer needs?”

Most organizations and consequently processes defined by them interpret all things desired by customers as customer needs. This is very far from the truth. Note that the phrase is not ‘necessary outcome’ but a ‘desired outcome’. I believe that the term ‘desire’ is most appropriate for associating with an outcome. This is because the needs are met by most businesses whereas desires are not.

One of the basic concepts in economics talks about wants v/s needs. A need is something that the customer must have (something one cannot do without); while want is something the customer likes to have. For example, a dwelling house is a need, while a house with a temperature-controlled swimming pool is a desire. To quantify, there are far more wants than needs.

A ‘desire’ can be equated to ‘want’ in a way.

“How does desire impact the process?”

A process that produces a desired outcome offers more for the customer than the one that produces just a need. If the process addresses needs but not desires, it may become redundant. The customer will not receive what he or she has paid for. In other words, the desire of the customer needs to be understood in great detail even before the process is defined. If a customer’s desires are understood clearly, these get built into the process definition and therefore results in a customer focused process.

There are established methodologies / tools that help to scientifically identify customer needs and desires, such as Voice of Customer (VOC), Quality Function Deployment (QFD), etc. Some of these tools can be deployed with very little expenditure and in a shorter time frame.

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