What is process mining and why should you or your organisation care?

As with any transformation project, one of the key success factors is ensuring that you fully understand where you currently are so that you can plan where you need to get to.

This may sound easy to do but in practice, it is a lot harder than we think.

Traditional Business Process Mapping

Traditionally organisations have followed a well-worn path to help them identify and document their processes as only then will they be able to fully understand how their business processes are operating.

Organisations would engage with a third party typically an accounting focussed consultancy that would create a mapping plan to identify the key workstreams and business functions including which personnel would need to be interviewed to help capture the work process.

Some of you may have witnessed this approach with multiple meetings, workshops, repeated conversations, rechecking, arguments, where multiple approaches to achieve the same outcome are uncovered and admissions that some people deviate from the published organisational policy and standards.

This approach may go on for weeks if not months and at the end of the engagement the host organisation and sponsors are presented with a large ‘As Is’ file documenting the findings. Once agreed the next phase of the project starts and this is where risks and problems can be amplified. Why is this the case?

Real Versus Perceived Processes

The traditional approach to Business Process Automation has relied on a tried and tested methodology designed by consultancies that operate on an ‘as many bodies on-site for as long as possible’ model.

Not only is this costly on a per head basis it is also expensive for the host organisation as employees, managers and directors have to take time out of their day to meet, discuss and relay how in their opinion and perspective a process works. This is all well and good if a process is standardised, has few touchpoints, contains only structured data and is only ‘touched’ by Bob in accounts payable.

What happens when a process has multiple touchpoints, rules, exceptions, has no published standard format for a response, enables or allows various routes to achieve a similar or same outcome.

I am sure you will agree we have all worked with processes where you can save time and energy by circumventing the ‘correct’ procedure with a short cut.

Subjective Opinion not Objective Fact

So herein lies the problem why many organisations fail when embarking on a transformation Program.

If your organisational processes are failing and are insufficient the last thing you need to do is base your future decisions on unreliable subjective data, especially when staking your organisations future on being able to change them to deliver value.

So whether implementing a new system, a migration or identifying those functional areas that could benefit from Process Automation the data must be valid, objective and current and not out of sync with the actual process operating model.

How does Process Mining help?

Process mining is based on data mining and data visualisation that enables organisations to capture user and system interaction as objective data points.

Once collated a picture of actual data use can be visualised to show touchpoints, breakpoints, policy adherence or rule-breaking. It can quickly demonstrate where bottlenecks exist, where employees or managers deviate from defined processes and where flows stagnate.

Because process mining uses systems and data there is no need for users, managers or directors to describe their opinion of how a process should be followed or how they think it should be followed.

There is no need for teams of consultants, no workshops, time-outs, interpretation or beliefs just cold hard factual data presented in a format that shows the process naked and unopinionated.

Robotic Process Automation

By identifying the actual friction points in a process and studying where and why a process stalls or falls down means that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be implemented and focussed on areas where the greatest value and impact can be realised.

Productivity, accuracy and cost lowering is massively increased across all of the business and process function when applied in those areas that have been isolated by the process mining tools and shared with managers responsible for the processes.

RPA is applied in the areas that can maximise the return on investment and create the most value allowing resources to be allocated to those areas that require more engaged interaction with human worker involvement.

So Why Use Process Mining?

By using Process Mining tools correctly, the effort can be concentrated within the systems environment and use actual data and metrics that are fact-based and opinions.

In terms of speed to solution, there is no need to involve multiple levels of personnel who would need to be interviewed and attend typically a number of workshops and meetings. Traditional project and consultancy engagements failed to deliver the anticipated results and whilst short term fixes were typically found scalable, long term solutions with significant value were rare.

Processing mining and in particular specific tools that tap into systems data are the future of process automation and improvement and all organisations wanting to transform their organisational structures should be considering how to use Process Mining.

For further information on how ONQU can help and advise you on the choices you will have in relation to Process Mining and Robotic Process Automation please contact Steve Priestnall on steve@onqu.solutions

ONQU Solutions is a certified Celonis and UiPath Partner