Process Mining – bring speed to your improvement efforts

This is brief article to introduce Process Mining I presented at a key note on Process Mining, on 28th September at the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce.

Business Context is changing more quickly than ever before

Everyday companies face the challenge to adapt to business environment, but these days companies must do it at the speed of light. And this means they need to change it business processes very quickly and they cannot wait months to match or excel customer’s expectations.

Companies are increasingly dependent on information systems. Systems are spreading in order to support: customer relationship and supply chain processes to name a few. This implicates that more data and more data are spread across multiple systems and platforms. Data can tell us how business processes are executed, but is not very agile for us, humans, to analyze it in tables across multiple databases, thus we typically love to draw process models that are far from reality.

Process Mining does the job for you automatically and helps process improvement teams and managers to understand how work is done, if there are business risk regarding compliance or fraud, enhances performance analysis and helps to improve business processes.

One of the most important thing is Process Mining works will all your enterprise systems, doesn’t matter if is SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, whatever. It has no lock in.

System logs record all the information is processed and this information is used to understand what the reality, how work is being performed to improve it without ambiguity.

Key benefits

Design and redesign of business processes

One of the key benefits is speed to understand your situation. I’ve been in business process improvement more than 10 years, and when a manager assigns a team the quest to improve a particular process, normally it takes weeks or months to understand how work is done.

With process mining you don’t waste time on these activities and you jump immediately identifying the improvement opportunities because Process Mining discovers the process for you automatically.

On decentralized companies it’s virtually impossible to visit every location to understand how things get done. Yes you can use social tools to communicate or share information, still you depend on people that can have bias, hidden agendas or don’t have access to all the necessary information (still it takes too much to get it).

Another increasingly important aspect is socialization within the organization, i.e., how people connect and how exchange information. How often we are surprised how people can work together and help them improving communication channels or how we could balance the workforce in order to fulfill the work assigned them?

Compliance – are you exposed to risks?

One of the other key aspects is compliance. Some years ago I was lucky to discover almost by accident that some people could buy things they were not authorized to. Audit reports never showed this mal practice, maybe because audits do not go deeper as it should, or auditors had the misfortune not finding evidence. When I spoke with the manager, he told us: “That’s not possible” the system does not let people do that. Well I showed him they could…

Thus Process Mining shows clearly your enterprises risks, where you are not compliant with law and regulations or business policies.

Enhance your performance analysis

One of the other key things Process Mining can helps is on performance analysis. Today companies control key performance indicators using reports or dashboards that do a great job because they bring the visibility about company performance. But most of the times managers don’t know why targets were missed. Imagine you are a logistics company that promise to your customer’s delivery in 3 days after accepting the customer request, but nowadays you are delivering in 6 days. This is nothing new because you are experiencing a surge on complains, but you don’t know why you are failing to achieve your target.

Process Mining can show clearly the reason you fail to deliver, maybe because your people take too much time to assign the request to the truck driver.

Conclusion

Process Mining can help a lot improving your business processes, it shows where are the bottlenecks, the repetition, the duplication, because is using the real world data of company execution. Clear with no assumptions, with no strange simulations that leave managers in the middle of the desert.

Process Mining is the next discipline to improve business processes in an objective manner that provides the speed you need to to overcome your hurdles.

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10 thoughts on “Process Mining – bring speed to your improvement efforts

  1. Alberto, while I agree that Process Mining will be much more accepted in the future, what you describe is mostly process and KPI monitoring, ar at best Business Activity Monitoring.

    Process mining cannot happen in a typical flowcharted BPM environment because there is nothing to mine. You can only mine email exchanges, case management or social networks. The next question is what you actually do with the mined process information. To make it practical the system has to identify automatically what is relevant about the information that it mined. The only way it can do that is by discovering the data patterns lkined to events and user actions. Compliance can only be achieved by defining boundary rules for user actions.

    All in all, it needs a much different technology and environment than your orthodox BPM system to do Process Mining. I posted on this a year ago: http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/can-bpmn-and-rules-handle-complex-events-no/

  2. Hello Max:
    Thanks for your comments.

    This presentation had a predefined audience and thus themes covered were aligned with it. Process Mining have a broad scope and it was pointless to this particular audience, talk about data sources, social interaction patterns, clustering, heuristics.

    Is not true that Process Mining is useless on structured processes (this highly documented, and proved, I’m not going to repeat infinitely arguments), by the way, one of the key benefits I found worth using it’s just because it’s total agnostic and independent of systems, methods, assumptions, theories, hype, and all this information overload that let the people down, the poor people that work in the companies Max and want to do better, thus we have a tool that finally get rid of bias and lock-in and let people freely discover and think what can be done to improve.

    You have a flaw regarding system intelligence you refer. One of the main challenges to carry a process mining project is getting the data from the systems and transform it to meaningful event logs. With a myriad systems being used inside a company, most don’t use a BPMS and don’t even know what’s that for, with each system storing data it’s own way it’s impossible to assure capabilities that can enhance the Process Mining process. If that was so easy, and this complexity did not exist, maybe Process Mining never have seen the light of day.

    • Alberto, I am in total agreement with regards to process mining in diverse systems so I am not sure what the ‘flaw’ refers to. Most systems that could be mined do not deliver sensible data elements that are in any way causally connected. Which is why I propose to use a system that enables a collaborative approach from the outside and does not require IT implementation. If it allows users to create the processes and interactions they need. These activities can be mined for causal patterns of user actions in regards to external events and complex business patterns. In this case there is no data ambiguity or variation. As the most commonly used process of a set of variants must still not be the right one for everything, one needs anyway a system with adaptability.

      I would rally be interested what process mining would discover during flowchart execution. All you can extract are monitoring data or at best how often certain gateways are taken. That is not process disciovery as per the definition I understand. With an ad-hoc or adaptive process capability where users can create the process interactively, PM is feasible.

      • Max:
        My interpretation of process discovery is – extraction of a process model, with actives and nodes. Process Mining have this kind of capability from the IT logs without knowing anything how the process is executed. You can obtain performance because it’s necessary to have the time stamps in the log file and if you got the names/positions of the people executing the tasks, you can construct social graphs to understand how people work together, how they depend on.

  3. “Process mining cannot happen in a typical flowcharted BPM environment because there is nothing to mine.You can only mine email exchanges, case management or social networks.”

    “Most systems that could be mined do not deliver sensible data elements that are in any way causally connected.”

    Neither statement is true.

    Check out http://www.promtools.org/prom5/ for those of you who really want to find out what process mining can do. Also look at http://www.processmining.org/ for research and examples.

    If the system is a process aware information system and produces an event log then the there is workflow, performance, conformance and organisational analysis that can be done using process mining tools. This is process mining! There are hundreds of different analyses that can be used.

    Process mining shows causal connections between events or resources when they exist! In fact that’s its strength.

    You can use journals from operating systems (IBM i journals), audit trails from machines (hospitals & industry), logs from systems like call centres (telcos) and system trails from legacy systems (banking and insurance). There are dozens of examples of these for anyone interested (see above links).

    The data must be ‘sensible’ because the users seem to understand the results!

    In complex legacy systems like retail banking you can unravel the different applications using process mining and (ontologies). See http://vimeo.com/5929548 for discussions about Semantics and problems of complexity and heterogeneity.

  4. In my experience, there are lots of systems that – while they support the execution of processes and restrict the process behavior in some way – leave considerable degrees of freedom to the users. As a result, there is little insight and no transparency about how these processes are actually executed! Process mining can create this transparency.

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