Goals and Steps of Process Mining
Process Mining 101 series: Part 2
In part one of our series we talked about the basics of Process Mining. In part two we will focus on what you can achieve with Process Mining and about the individual steps to reach your goals. How do you start? What do you want to find out? How does Process Mining add value to your organization? What is possible? What can you do in addition to visualizations and analyses? And which individual steps are part of a process analysis with Process Mining?
There is always one major goal when you start Process Mining: process improvement.
But there is not one predefined path to improve a process. Depending on your business, your process or specific problems “improvement” can mean many different things. That’s why Process Mining is so versatile. You see your actual process and uncover what really needs improvement.
What you can find and do with Process Mining
Your real process
No matter what you want to do in the end, you should always consider your actual process. There is no use in “optimizing” something that doesn’t need optimization or worse, don’t optimize something that is a real problem.
Problems such as repetitions or rework
Those can be obvious bottlenecks, but they don’t have to be. But they always are a waste of time, money employee power, and ˗ depending on your business ˗ resources.
Are there cases where a process step takes way longer than the average? There must be a cause of these long lead times. You can find the bottlenecks that slow down your process and then perform a root cause analysis to find out what exactly is causing the delays in that bottleneck.
Were necessary process steps skipped? Did they happen in the wrong order? Did someone place an order without approvals? These are all examples of compliance violations that you can find with Process Mining. But you may also find that a “compliance violation” such as a change in the order of process steps makes more sense than the process model and restructure your process accordingly.
Overall, compliance issues impact efficiency, quality and risk management.
Often business owners and people working in a process have an idea where optimization potential lies. But there also are many cases where minor problems are fixed and steps that are actually performing well in comparison to others are optimized because the true optimization hotspots remain hidden. Improvement and optimization strategies need to make sense. They have to be sustainable in the long run, but they also must be flexible enough to quickly react to changes.
One of the goals of Process Mining is to find the hidden improvement potential. Basically, with Process Mining you get a priority list for your optimization strategy.
Root Cause Analysis
Process Mining tools can reveal the root causes of problems in your process. Do you want to find out what’s causing particularly long lead times? Why are there so many order changes in a specific month? What is causing so many repetitions of a specific process step? These and many more questions can be answered with a root cause analysis.
You can also use it to find the driving forces of well-performing processes. This is often overlooked, because Process Mining is understood as revealing problems. But you can also use it to find out the actual best-practices in your company to implement them in your optimization measures.
Process Measurement & KPI Reporting
You can also keep an eye on the success of your optimization strategy by continuously monitoring your process based on relevant process KPIs (key performance indicators). What KPIs are relevant to your process performance? How are they changing over time? What should you really be focusing on? With Process Mining you can find the KPIs that actually matter for your process performance and keep track of them.
Different goals for different targets
Optimization affects different areas of your business structure. What is it that your employees need to perform best? How do you keep your customers satisfied? And how does Process Mining impact business strategies?
Your employees are the ones who perform in your process so they should always be considered in your optimization strategy.
Process Mining is not about finding the weakest link in your team and getting rid of it. It’s about finding out how you can help your employees to better perform their tasks. Do they need training for a specific task? Is there a step that is completely redundant that can just be eliminated? Are there reasons why specific tasks take way longer than the average and how can that be improved? Is the as-is process actually the sensible way to do it rather than trying to enforce an ‘ideal’ process model? What exceptions to the ‘ideal’ process are actually just part of everyday work and which ones are problematic and cause extra work and stress?
Why do they have to wait for deliveries/invoices/replies/activities? You have two options here. Option one is to find and eliminate problems before your customers complain. Option two is finding the ideal route of customer satisfaction, identify root causes and try to incorporate those positive forces in all your company processes. In short: You make life easier for your customers.
Process Mining is a huge help when it comes to fact-based decision making. This can mean decisions that impact your running process, but also decisions that make it easier to plan in advance, to harmonize processes when merging or acquiring new facilities and in terms of automation potential and strategies.
How can you manage your resources effectively? What is the best strategy to harmonize processes? Is there automation potential in your process? Where is it? What tasks can be performed by a bot? What tasks are too complex for a bot? How can you relieve your employees of repetitive work so they can focus on the more challenging and nuanced tasks? Can you save money and resources by automating process steps?
These (and many more) questions can be answered with Process Mining to find the approach and strategy that works for you.
What else is there?
There are various use cases applying Process Mining. We’re always excited to hear from users who try out new application areas. Do you have an idea what you could use Process Mining for? Our free visual in Microsoft AppSource is a great way to give it a try ;)
Now you have an idea of what you can do with Process Mining, it’s time to see how you get there.
Process Mining in general
Step 1: Data
Before you can start your analysis, you need to make sure that you have the right data.
The event log: Process Mining needs event log data. We talked about this in part one of our series but as a short recap:
Event log data is stored in databases such as SAP®, Salesforce, Excel or custom tools.
For Process Mining, there are three mandatory fields: CaseID, Timestamp, Activity Name
On top of that, you can add many additional fields such as vendor, country, facility, user, etc. to get a more detailed analysis and better results.
Data Preparation: Once you have your event log, the data undergoes different steps of preprocessing, transformation, processing, etc. Usually you don’t have to worry about this, as our software does it for you or guides you through the whole process.
Step 2: Visualization
Your data is visualized in a well-structured and easily understandable process flow.
This process flow is automatically generated and shows your process how it actually happens. Depending on the complexity of your process, this can take a bit longer.
Once the initial process flow is there, you can jump between various levels of detail, set filter options depending on what you want to look at, and customize the visualization for example by changing colors.
Step 3: Analysis
Here, things are starting to become really interesting because now you find out everything you need to know about your process.
You can look for loops, see the different variants of your process or find bottlenecks. With a second generation Process Mining tool, you can also conduct a Root Cause Analysis to find out what is causing those problems.
You decide on the things you want to focus on. You can compare different days, facilities, vendors, etc., show relationships and dependencies in your process or look at distributions (for example lead times for different cases) to find majorities, outliers and problem areas.
You truly learn what parts make up your process, understand what is happening, what actions need to be taken, and where the highest priorities and potentials for process improvement or process automation are located.
Features of 2nd generation Process Mining
Now we’re moving to features that are included in 2nd generation Process Mining tools such as PAFnow. Of course they still process and visualize your data and allow for a detailed analysis, even better than before. But they can actually do much more now.
Step 4: Benchmarking/Comparing/Compliance
Compare actual processes to each other or to a target model.
- You can find out how your process performance compares to previous years or months.
- You can check for compliance violations on a single case level and identify the causes.
- You can benchmark your actual process based on an ideal model to evaluate how you are improving and where you need to put in more optimization effort.
With all three types of comparative analysis you can define the relevant KPIs (key performance indicators) of your process and keep an eye on their development with…
Step 5: Monitoring
Set alerts for KPI thresholds
Watch your improvement progress and adapt your strategy
Uncover new areas of improvement
Monitoring allows you to receive notifications in case your KPIs cross a specified threshold. You have all your important numbers on one page and the accompanying visuals show you their development over time. When you identify a new metric that’s relevant to your process you can set it as a KPI on the monitoring page and define the notification thresholds. You can also receive regular updates even when your numbers are not out of the ordinary.
Repeat your process analysis (manually or automatically) to see how your measurements are impacting your process performance. You can use this insight to see if you need to change your optimization strategy or if there are new areas of improvement .
Step 6: Trigger Workflows
Take action from within your Process Mining application.
As a last step of Process Mining, 2nd generation Process Mining tools allow you to trigger workflows directly from within the Process Mining tool. There are workflows that are automated and either performed by a robot or the system, and workflows that need to be performed manually. In the case of manual workflows, you can collaborate across departments to solve a problem.
To sum up: with the second wave of Process Mining tools, you are actually able to track your process in real time, to directly start optimization measures, and to compare your processes to each other and to target or compliance models.
In part three of our series we’ll focus on use cases. So stay tuned for specific scenarios and improvements our customers and partners achieved with Process Mining.
If you have any questions or want to learn more about Process Mining, try out our demo version, contact us, get the free visual, or just contact us. We are happy to help you, answer your questions and tell you more about the mission of the Process Analytics Factory (PAF).
Part 2: Goals and Steps