“Process mining” is Gartners latest hot topic. Let’s discuss just how important this is and how it relates to a Business Management System (BMS) like ours and what is the ongoing value?
Process mining explores enterprise applications and traces the progress of transactions. It builds a picture of actual processes by following transactions through various paths. Unlike a consultant’s theoretical view, process mining works with actual data to determine the paths that transactions take. These include:
- and re-worked
Further, it provides a count of the number of transactions following various paths.
While you can workshop and brainstorm how processes should work, there may, on occasions, be some deviation from the process design and there are times when there is substantial, unexpected re-work, cost blowouts and poor customer service. Process mining digs out what is actually happening by examining system logs and tracking transactions through systems.
Process variance is a big issue. While the process design may seem effective and deliver an excellent customer experience, reality may be substantially different. This may result in the same process being performed quite differently in different locations through different processing centres or different projects. This may result in some process steps being bypassed, resulting in compliance breaches.
How important is this?
Do you want to base decisions on fact or fiction? Process mining can add a lot of substance to change initiatives by providing actual performance data that can help to understand costs and deficiencies in current operations. They can identify deviations from expected processes and hot spots that require attention.
Investment can be targeted to areas of greatest need rather than perceived shortcomings. Improvements may require changes to systems, processes and / or people’s roles. Process mining can help to identify what requires changing and what does not. It may be that the same process supported by the same systems produces different results in alternate processing centres. Hence, the processes and systems may not require change and it may be a matter of training or a lack of reliable and current information. Of course, the issue may be much more complex and could require process and / or systems modification.
Are processes being followed in a compliant fashion? They may have been designed to be performed in accordance with regulations and policies but may not have been followed accurately. Process mining can paint the picture of how processes have been performed, which steps have been taken and potentially which have been missed. If some of these steps were necessary to meet compliance obligations, a compliance breach may have occurred. This approach does not rely on manual records but systems that record the facts.
When performance does not meet expectations, there will most likely be inadequate staffing to meet the needs. The general approach is to assign further resources to deal with the symptoms rather than fix the problems.
There is much talk of evidence-based decisions. Process mining is an excellent approach to obtaining real evidence of performance. This should be the starting point for many change initiatives and is in stark contrast to many projects that commence with too many assumptions. Even well-run projects (of which there are very few), cannot be successful if addressing the wrong problem.
How does Process Mining relate to a BMS?
Process mining can capture a view of system-related processes. However, these are only part of the picture. A BMS captures manual and system processes, performers, regulations, controls and more. It can capture metrics in the context of the work performed. Process mining can detect that there may be, say, a 5-day delay between steps in a process but cannot determine the actions taken in this time if they are not system-related. The BMS can capture the remaining detail and flesh out the picture. This can help to understand what steps are performed (if any) during these 5 days. In the case of a customer application, delays could result in lost business and this will be detected by process mining.
The BMS will help to model alternate approaches and changes that may improve business performance. Rather than rushing off to make changes, the BMS can simulate the future environment, determine likely results and deliver a greater understanding of the implications of changes on people, processes and systems. The benefits may be quantified so that the ROI can be determined.
Once the appropriate changes have been determined, these need to be implemented and communicated. The new mode of operation is detailed in the BMS and this is then used as the means of communication to all affected by the change. It provides a reference for ongoing operations and a reliable source of information for onboarding new staff or those who are changing roles and responsibilities.
What is the ongoing value of process mining?
The above scenarios can assist on projects that implement improvements in operations. But, how do we ensure that improvements are sustained and form a means for continual improvement? The BMS provides a reference point for processes, compliance and performance. Process mining can be applied on a continual basis to highlight issues and provide ongoing checks on performance and compliance. On a more positive note, they could also detect innovative approaches that deliver greater performance without introducing greater risk. The learnings can be taken back into the BMS and improvements then communicated to all concerned.
Process mining has a great role to play by feeding into dashboards that can be used to detect deviations and improvements very quickly, enabling action to be taken to reduce costs, meet compliance obligations and increase customer satisfaction.
For those who have access to Gartner research, the “Market Guide for Process Mining” by Marc Kerremans is G00353970.