Misconceptions about Process Mining (2)
Process Mining 101 series: Part 5
There is lots of information floating around on the internet about Process Mining. And we get it. It is an interesting and exciting topic that deserves to be talked about. But there’s also a lot of information that is misleading and causes confusion among our customers and partners and people who are only starting to learn about Process Mining.
We collected the most common misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding Process Mining to bring some clarity to the topic and set the record straight. This post focuses on the misconceptions about results and effects of Process Mining.
Of pirate path and process models
“You don’t need to know the as-is processes to optimize your business”
People who argue that way usually approach the topic from a slightly old-fashioned business transformation perspective. Business transformation can be seen as either one of the many areas of Business (Process) Management or as its predecessor. The goal of business transformation is to develop new processes that are better than the current ones. The argument they use is, that if the process is changed anyway, there is no need to know how it is currently happening.
But that’s a bit like trying to re-invent the wheel without re-inventing the wheel. If you don’t know your as-is process how can you guarantee that you won’t repeat past and current mistakes?
Now, if you want to do an automation project, you may hear the counter argument “But we don’t want to simply automate our faulty, inefficient as-is process! We need to redesign it!”
We also don’t want you to automate a faulty process. However, we are convinced that you need to know your as-is process, including all its ‘faults’ to determine your best optimization and automation options.
That’s because of a thing called 'Pirate Path' (or ‘free-will ways’, ‘desire lines’, ‘cow paths’, or ‘social trails’). Pirate Paths can be found in parks or other areas with predefined, formal paths and routes to follow. They are the paths that humans create to get from point A to point B faster than they would by using the official route. You’ve definitely come across a pirate path before. Those muddy dirt-paths crossing over a green area in a park? That’s a pirate path. Of course there is a paved route around the green area, but it takes longer to walk that way.
There are also pirate paths in your business process. Although they may violate official rules and guidelines (your ‘paved paths’), they can be a more efficient way to get from A to B. Humans are very effective in finding or creating shortcuts. You would never know about them if you skipped the as-is analysis.
Similarly you wouldn’t find the true improvement potential of your processes. Or see how well your strategy is playing out. How can you measure and monitor improvement when you don’t know where you started?
Is there no need for an optimization strategy with Process Mining?
“Process Mining automatically provides you with recommendations and optimization measures”
Artificial Intelligence can tell you what numbers in your data set look suspicious and suggest where to start digging for root causes. But neither Process Mining nor any other AI powered solution can and should tell you exact steps to improve your process.
Every company, every process is different, what works for you will not work for others. Process Mining can show you exactly where and on what you should act but it is up to you and the people in your company to act in a way that makes sense.
Process Mining shows you your process as it happens and can tell you root causes for problems such as loops, rework, waste and bottlenecks. But, with the current state of technology, it will not tell you how to fix those problems. And that is not a bad thing.
Process Mining doesn’t have industry-specific knowledge for every business sector out there. It doesn’t know anything about your company philosophy, how you handle employees, arrange deals or make exceptions. It can show you the customer journey, purchase processes, your entire transaction landscape and all exceptions and root causes but the how is still up to you. Process Mining is about empowering you to make the right decisions as fast as possible, but it is not about taking decisions away from you.
With the pace of technological development this might change in the future but even then, it may be a good idea to think of the provided solutions as generic.
You still have to consider the context of your company structure, your goals, what you want to achieve with Process Mining and what will be the best way to go about achieving your goals.
A strategy is a long-term solution. You need to monitor your success. Blindly optimizing things is not a strategy. Monitoring every possible KPI is also not a strategy.
Process Mining is a solution that helps you to set up a real strategy:
- Create a hierarchy of tasks.
You find out everything that could be optimized, define the most important tasks and those that can wait or are actually not of any concern (for example, one case with a long lead time is not necessarily caused by rework or waste but may just be complicated and time consuming)
- Define the KPIs that matter.
There is a great story about Sky and how the company reduced the number of KPIs to track from 2000 down to 30. Imagine tracking 2000 KPIs. There will always be opposing views, implications and numbers to support anything. That’s not effective KPI management. Process Mining shows you what goes well and what doesn’t in your process. From those insights you can derive the KPIs that really matter.
- Keep track of the success of your strategy
You can benchmark your processes, see how your changes impact the process performance and react to outside changes quickly. Process Mining is not a one-time-deal, you can repeat it again and again. As your company develops, so do your processes. With Process Mining, you see exactly how.
Predictions and Promises
“Before you start with Process Mining, you will already know exactly how much you can improve."
There are two sides to this statement. The side where you use Process Mining to reach a specific goal and the side where you use Process Mining without a clear question or goal in mind.
When you use Process Mining to reach a specific goal (for example to improve delivery reliability) the chances of knowing how much you will improve are really high. After all, improving to a specified degree is the goal of the project. You’re using Process Mining to figure out how to reach that goal. Process Mining put in a concrete context is very powerful. For example, you can use it to increase operational efficiency, to reduce errors, or to evaluate the reliability of vendors.
Process Mining without a specific context is also very powerful but in a different way. It’s like asking the question “What does my process look like and where should I start to improve it?”. But if you use Process Mining in that way, it is harder to tell in advance how much you can improve.
We don’t know your current process, yet. That’s the reason why we’re doing Process Mining. We find out the as-is state of your process to determine improvement potential, problems, relevant KPIs and to help you to set up an effective optimization strategy that fits your company. But we can’t promise you concrete numbers as long as we don’t know what your process looks like. Anyone who gives you exact numbers before the actual analysis has happened is a bit too enthusiastic about what Process Mining can do. We’re not doing fortune telling, we’re working with insights and facts.
So, if you’re asking us “Can Process Mining help me to increase delivery reliability by 25 percent?” the answer will most likely be “If that’s your goal, then yes!”. On the other hand, if you’re asking us “How much can Process Mining increase my company’s delivery reliability?” we cannot tell you. But we can tell you what we know is possible from previous projects.
There is never a question if Process Mining will help you save money and resources, or will help you to optimize, or to automate your processes Every process can be improved. We will find waste and rework. We will find bottlenecks, long lead times, and strange variants. And we will do that in a fraction of the time that traditional optimization projects need, accurately and objectively (using Process Mining you can lower transformation efforts and costs by more than 90%, that number is a fact). How much time, money or whatever this will save in your business process depends on the quality of your as-is process.
So invest smartly, benefit from a fast RoI and enjoy better processes.
Does Process Mining destroy process management careers?
“When you use Process Mining software you don’t need process managers”
Process Mining automates some of the steps in process optimization projects. Mainly, the visualization aspect and areas of analysis and monitoring.
When you mention automation, people will always fear that they will be replaced. This fear is rooted in the effects of automated production, that replaced human workers with robots. But we’re not close to reaching that scenario in IT. So neither data analysts nor process managers have to fear being replaced.
What’s true, is the fact that you don’t have to rely on interviews or other time consuming and expensive measures to gather insights about your process. But although Process Mining automates this part of process optimization and some other areas such as monitoring and areas of controlling, there still is a need for experts.
Process Mining is a tool and like any other tool it needs people that know how to use it and can teach those, who are still a bit unsure about the details. For complex optimization projects with lot’s of data points it’s a good idea to have analysts around who can support you on your Process Mining journey.
And after the analysis of the as-is process, a strategy needs to be derived and implemented. We talked about this in part five of this series: Process Mining, does not automatically improve your process. It helps you to find the optimization potential in your process. You and your employees as a team of process experts have to use these insights to implement changes that work for your company.
Every company is different and so is every process. With Process Mining you bring objectivity, visibility and speed to your optimization project. But you still need humans to interpret the results, derive a strategy and implement changes.
Is Process Mining about exposing the weakest employee?
“Process Mining exposes employees who perform less efficient and is a risk to data security”
The details of any Process Mining analysis depend on the details of the data. If there is no data that is linked to individual employees, then there is no insight on individual employees. If there is data that can identify an individual person, Process Mining data can be pseudonymized to guarantee maximum security of personal information.
But what if a particular problem in a process can be tracked back to one employee (for example, if there only is one employee performing a process step)?
Process Mining is not about pointing fingers; it’s about lending a hand. So the question is not “Who makes mistakes?” but “Why does someone make mistakes?” and then helping that person to avoid them.
There are so many reasons why an employee cannot perform well. Does an employee need training because there is a process step that only is needed once in a while? Is that employee working with vendors who take long to deliver goods? Or is there something off with the work sequence in that process step?
Actually, Process Mining is much more efficient in empowering employees than traditional process management approaches. In traditional process management it is possible to find areas that are not doing well, but the reasons behind the problems are very hard to find. In those cases it is much easier to assign blame, although the problem lies not with the person. In contrast, Process Mining pinpoints the problem, visualizes it, so it can be communicated, and thus helps to find solutions.
That’s a wrap on our Process Mining 101 series.
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 5: Misconceptions about Process Mining (2)