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What is Process Mining (Detailed Guide)

There was a time when process mapping for a business had to be completed by people who met only for a few days to figure out the entire thing on a spreadsheet or a whiteboard.

So, yeah, in a way, it was a complete slog, believe it or not.

But thankfully, there’s no need to go through the gut-wrenching, people-driven process anymore. Now, you can employ process mining’s advanced data transformation and powerful algorithm to discover and optimise your processes efficiently. And yes, it will be slog-free as well.

But what is process mining?

How does it work and optimise your business’s data-driven workflows?

I have answered both of these questions throughout this article entirely. However, before we get worked up on that, let’s get back to the fundamentals first by defining what process actually is.

What is a ‘Process?’

A process is a series of steps or actions repeated in a steady progression to enable a task to get its recognised ‘start’ and a defined ‘finish.’ The purpose of this is to develop and maintain the commonly-understood and collaboratively followed flow that allows the tasks to be efficiently completed.

Every step related to your business process will leave a digital footprint in the transactional and procedural system. And you will find the same in an event log data infrastructure.

Now, this information is, in general, used by a process mining tool to create a depiction of what a business process looks like. But, it wouldn’t always match the definition you might have worked out in your process mining workshop.

The Most Common Business Processes

Some of the most common business processes might include – P2P (purchase-to-pay), consumer service process, or O2C (order-to-cash). Some other supporting processes that help a corporation with the following tasks are –

  • Accounts receivable process (customer onboarding, pay collection, deduction, exceptions management, cash posting, and, finally, invoicing).
  • Accounts payable processes (paying suppliers or vendors for goods, services acquired by the organisation, and the expenses related to performing an operation).
  • Procurement processes (processing and preparation of demand, the approval of the end receipt of a specific business-related payment, purchase planning, etc.)
  • Inventory management processes (storing, ordering, using, and selling everything that is included within the inventory of an organisation).
  • Order management processes (accepting an order, packing and shipping a product to the user, and tracking the same until it gets delivered).

However, whatever I have mentioned here is just a sample, of course. There are a lot of things an organisation needs to do on a regular basis. And, to put it into context, processes are not static at all, nor do they go through the ‘correctly defined’ path for them.

So, if you don’t focus on the process, even the best-made plan might go awry. So, it’s best for an entrepreneur to stay prepared for everything. And that is where process mining will be helpful.

What is Process Mining?

Speaking in Layman’s terms, process mining is a method or technique that is used to analyse and track business processes. In conventional business process management, it’s performed with a lot of different process interviews and workshops to create an idealised depiction of a procedure.

However, process mining employs the existing information you have available in a corporate data system and displays a breakdown of it automatically.

Okay, so that was the easiest explanation of what process mining is. Now, let me get into the specifics of the procedure a little bit more.

So, technically speaking, process mining combines process analytics and data mining together to mine log data and understand their performance. In addition to that, it can also aid you in revealing the places where your organisation’s bottlenecks occur the most.

It might also reveal other areas of improvement, including resource allocation, operational or procedural progress, process optimisation, and much more.

How Does Process Mining Work?

When it comes to using process mining for deciphering your organisational data, there are three models that you can go for. Each of them is quite different from the other and, thus, will need to be in a circumstantial manner. In any case, let’s keep reading to know more about them.

Model – 1: Discovery

A data-driven approach, the ‘discovery’ method, consists of creating a process map based on the event logs. But, while you’re at it, you’ll need to make sure that the information you are working with isn’t made of assumptions. There shouldn’t be any external data available there, either.

However, if you have a more developed or inclusive log data, there might be some extra data present. For example, if you have a separate HR department, you will get more info on the event log. So, you can certainly extract the same to get more knowledge or information.

Another aspect related to it is a social media network and the way your consumers interact with the organisation. It will offer insight into the buyer-seller relationship and help you find a solution if there’s a problem associated with it.

Model – 2: Enhancement

The enhancement method will enrich the procedure of standard discovery and any other method associated with it. Furthermore, it can also improve your theoretical process map and how you’re supposed to extract more information from it.

With this technique, you may also modify the existing system effectively and ensure that you are adding new aspects to it. Here are a few things you can do related to the same –

  • Review different timestamps in your event log
  • Check for anomalies within your system
  • Add brand new labels to your data

This, in turn, can help you find out about bottlenecks, supply delays, frequencies of purchase and service stoppage. Once you get information related to the aforementioned, you can use discovery to find out the reasons behind such issues and correct them accordingly.

Model – 3: Conformance

A rather ‘reality check’ method, unlike anything else, conformance is a technique that can help an individual or a business check if their process map conforms to the actual execution of business process as recorded in the event log or conforms to the model developed and vice versa. It might also help a company in evaluating the records within its log.

By using the conformance method, you will be able to scrutinise if there have been any breaches In the rules of your process model. For instance, if there’s any abnormal behaviour or outliers within your clients, you can find it by scanning through the event log using a model specifying requirements.

Proper usage of process mining can reveal if these deviations will have a significant impact on your organisation or not. In any case, conformation is broadly used in banking system to ensure work being followed in a careful manner.

Performing Process Mining – A Step-by-Step Guide

When it comes to process mining, the entire procedure is usually done in six simple yet elaborate steps. By following this structure, you can enrich your system even more and unearth the issue or problem you might have encountered. So, without any further ado, let’s get started with it.

Step – 1: Accumulating Information

Process mining, as a corporate proceeding, focuses on deciphering your organisational data and evaluating the rights and wrongs that lie within. Therefore, naturally, the first step of this method is going to be all about accumulating information from your system.

Usually, the term ‘information’ here means your event log, which is generated by BPMS, ERP, ITSM, and CRM. Once you have collected the required information, you may use a process mining tool to extract the existing data with a pre-built connector.

Step – 2: Preprocessing the Available Information

Once the extraction is completed, you can start working on preprocessing it in an order to analyse it suitably. This entire procedure tends to involve the below-mentioned –

  • Removing the inconsistencies from the system
  • Cleaning the information, you have extracted and eliminating basic errors
  • Transforming the data into a usable format

However, preprocessing the information you have is a purely technical task. Therefore, if you do not want to make a mistake in this regard, collaborating with an expert might be helpful.

Step – 3: ‘Discovering’ the Process

Now, after you have completed the preprocessing, the next step for you would be to discover and proceed with the real-life process from the available information.

In this case, you will see an automatic visualisation of your organisation’s as-is process flows. In addition, you will also discover how all your business processes are being performed.

This, in turn, will help you drill down to the most comminute detail and find out how you might check for the trends accordingly. You’ll get information about the process variations too.

Step – 4: Evaluate and Drill Down to the Root

So, have you discovered the process already?

In that case, you may begin assessing it by using different process mining techniques and metrics accordingly. These might include measuring performance indicators, such as –

  • Lead time
  • Process efficiency
  • Conformance, and
  • Process improvisation area

Besides these, you may also perform a Root Cause Analysis , a significant step in process mining to reveal the core reason behind the issues related to your processes. Some of the potential problems might be associated with –

  • Bottlenecks
  • Unwanted process variations, and
  • Reworking

These will be highlighted in different flowcharts and get ranked based on how they are impacting your business’ potential outcomes. This, sequentially, will help you prioritise different actions to help you improve your organisational operations effectively.

Step – 5: Dip into Process Optimisation

Based on the information of your analytical prowess, you may start improving your processes. If you are wondering, you can do these through different process improvement techniques, like –

  • Conformance checking and evaluating
  • The usage of process discovery, and
  • Process enhancement

Optimising your processes may help you improve your overall performance, increase efficiency, and reduce expenses. Furthermore, it might also help you save time accordingly.

Final Step – Predicting KPI Performance

Even though it may sound a little gimmicky, the only constant in the world of business is change. And whether you believe it or not – the same applies to business processes too.

So, even if you’ve successfully pulled off the process mining method, you still have to make sure that you’re predicting and monitoring your KPI performance. This will help you in the future if some sort of trouble or difficulty related to the process happens.

Moreover, evaluating and monitoring your KPI performance can also ensure that you are finding troublesome issues before they actually happen. That way, you can reduce costs too.

Benefits of Process Mining

Process mining, in essence, can be highly beneficial for an organisation if used correctly. Here’s what you may experience or get if you perform it perfectly.

  • With it, you may deploy survey processes almost everywhere across your enterprise. The same will be done at a larger scale while requiring a low amount of human effort.
  • Process mining can help in analysing processes accurately based on the facts and proper data proceeding. The hidden bottlenecks and deviations could be highlighted profoundly.
  • Monitoring processes and measuring improvements in your system can be done with this system too. The compliance level of the tools is quite simplified too.
  • There will be audit trails to explore once the task has been completed. Also, it can be used in any industry, including financial services, manufacturing, and telecommunications.
  • With process mining, it’s possible to assess virtually any process in any kind of functional areas, such as – order-to-cash, purchase-to-pay, and many more while uncovering hidden inadequacies.

Closing Thoughts

If performed in a by-the-book manner, process mining can deliver an end-to-end perspective that is needed to enhance organisational processes. Moreover, it can also ensure that your automation processes are being performed correctly as well.

However, due to being a contemporary concept, it still lacks in some areas, including –

  • It doesn’t have the sophistication to evaluate complicated processes.
  • You won’t get alerted immediately if and when it has found a source of deviation.

From a general viewpoint, these issues do restrict the value process mining provides to you.

But, when compared to all the good things it does for your company, I’d say that the limitations would not be too worrisome for you.

So, it might be best to go with the flow and see where it takes you. Good luck!