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A process is a naturally occurring or designed sequence of operations or events, possibly taking up time, space, expertise or other resource, which produces some outcome. A process may be identified by the changes it creates in the properties of one or more objects under its influence. Compare: project. See also: process management, process theory, and Category:Nature.



A process may be categorized as singular, recurrent, or periodic. A singular process would be one which occurs only once. Few processes in nature can be considered singular. Most processes found in nature are recurrent, or repeat more than once. Recurring processes which repeat at a constant rate are considered periodic. The more periodic a process is the more useful it is as the basis of a clock. Below are a few specific examples of processes.


In philosophy and systems theory, basic processes, or logical homologies as they were termed by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, are unifying principles which operate in many different systemic contexts. For example, feedback is a principle that figures prominently in the science of cybernetics. Natural and industrial processes utilize basic processes such as feedback.

There is a philosophical system known as process philosophy, created by Alfred North Whitehead; related to this is process theology.


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Computing has many concepts of process.

Program execution

In computing, a computer process is a running instance of a program, including all variables and other states. A multitasking operating system switches between processes to give the appearance of simultaneous execution, though in fact, in general, only one process can be executing per CPU core. Some new processors, such as Intel's Pentium 4 with Hyperthreading capability, can actually execute more than one process at a time.

Software development

A software development process is a sequence of steps that practitioners and managers take to create software. The steps usually include requirements analysis, programming, testing, and other steps.

Different processes mix the steps together in different ways, and assign responsibility to people in different ways.

The CMM is a meta-process that defines rigid goals up front, and emphasizes scientific management. Some dislike its emphasis on paperwork.

Agile processes take the opposite approach, making things flexible.

In SSADM a process is a part of a data flow diagram, and represents an action performed on the data.

Information System Development

In the context of Information System Development a process is performed to produce a product. Such processes are also called techniques.

Products represent what shall be constructed, e.g. class diagrams, state charts, and so on. Processes (techniques) are the procedures which describe in what order the construction of the products shall be performed, e.g. “at first, identify classes and objects” to construct a class diagram, “identify states”, and so on. In [Rolland1993] the term process is defined as “a related set of activities conducted to the specific purpose of product definition”.

Both together, the set of products and their corresponding processes/techniques form a Method [Saeki] [Rolland1998]. Processes of the same nature are classified together into a Process Model.


[Rolland1993] C. Rolland. Modeling the Requirements Engineering Process, 3rd European-Japanese Seminar on Information Modelling and Knowledge Bases, Budapest, Hungary, June 1993.
[Rolland1998] C. Rolland. A Comprehensive View of Process Engineering. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference CAiSE'98, B. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 1413, Pernici, C. Thanos (Eds), Springer. Pisa, Italy, June 1998
[Saeki] M. Saeki. CAME: The First Step to Automated Method Engineering


See process music and Sol Lewitt.


An outgrowth of tissue is called a process in biology and anthropology, e.g. mastoid process.

See also stochastic process.

Last updated: 06-02-2005 05:20:58
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