Do all processes transform inputs into outputs?
It is not uncommon for processes to be perceived entirely as a means of transforming or converting inputs into outputs. Indeed many manufacturing process do exactly that - they transform raw materials into finished or semi-finished products through some from of fabrication or take semi-finished products and transform them into finished products by adding parts, coatings, finishes etc.
In the service industries, a car valet company can transform a dirty car into one that looks as good as new. A training service provider could be said to transform an unskilled person into a skilled person.
The notion of conversion or transformation is that there is a change in state such that the input is no longer the same input; its characteristics have changed usually for the better - the process is probably intended to add value to the input.
However, not all process inputs are transformed. The resources (people and equipment) that are used by the process can be perceived as inputs but are not transformed. One might consider such inputs as transforming inputs rather than inputs that are transformed. Documents and data is used by a process but not transformed or converted. These remain the same after the process has produced its outputs and may go on to be used by other processes.
The input is often perceived as the trigger for the process to function and indeed many processes receive information that triggers the process into action but these are not inputs like the raw materials mentioned above. These inputs activate the process.
Process activators can be also time based and event based. A time base activator might be a meeting date, a review date or some other date at which the process is activated. An event based activator might be a disaster, catastrophe, accident, incident, alarm or alert that activates a particular process such as a disaster recovery process, a contingency plan or emergency plan. In these processes, a situation may be transformed but this is not the same transformation as in the manufacturing process we mentioned above.
We can therefore have transformations that simply change the state of something whether it be an input, a situation or a moment in time and we use processes as a means of doing this.
So the answer to the question is that not all processes transform inputs into outputs and perhaps a better way of thinking about processes is that there are inputs, transformations and outputs, thus not implying every input is transformed.