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The Ultimate Process Mining Guide

Introduction to process mining

Process mining is a technique to discover, analyze, and monitor processes. In traditional business process management, processes are analyzed through process workshops and interviews, which results in a subjective picture of the ideal process. Additionally, the method is time-consuming.

Process mining takes an entirely different - and far more objective – approach. Process mining uses existing data from corporate information systems and automatically displays a dynamic visualization of the real processes, their performance as well as their compliance.

Unlike traditional process discovery, process mining provides answers not only to “what is happening in my processes?”, and “when is it happening?” – but also “why is this happening?”.

Traditional Process Discovery

  • Subjective
  • Time-consuming
  • Resource-heavy
  • Looking at one specific point in time

Process Mining

  • Objective
  • Instant
  • High ROI
  • Continuous and predictive

Additional Introductory Resources

In case you're still wondering what sets process mining apart from traditional process discovery and business process management, read more in our blogs:

How does process mining work?

When your employees or software robots interact with IT systems – such as SAP, Salesforce or Oracle - in your company, the activities leave a trace of data behind, referred to as an event log.

Process mining takes the data that exists in these information systems and uses it to visualize the real-life execution of your company’s processes together with other insights drawn from the event logs.

Getting started with process mining is simpler than you would imagine. The required event data contains the following three columns:

  • The case ID. This is a series of characters that identify different cases in the system, for example, sales order number, purchase order number, or an order line identification number.
  • Event type. This explains the occurring process step, for example that the purchase order has been created.
  • A timestamp. This is the actual time when each process step has been completed.

Process flow visualization with QPR Process Mining

With this data, the process mining tool creates business process flowcharts, finds root causes to problems, identifies automation opportunities, and much more.

Process mining software, such as QPR ProcessAnalyzer, draws this data directly from your information systems through built-in connectors.

The 5 steps of process mining

Step 1

Connect data

Make use of the data available in your IT systems. Process mining takes the existing transaction data in these information systems with pre-built connectors for a variety of systems (SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, etc.).

Step 2

Discover processes

See automatic visualizations of your as-is process flows and discover how your processes de facto work. Drill down to the most granular detail, see all your process variations or view trends on a high level.

Step 3

Investigate root causes

The Root Cause Analysis reveals the reasons behind the problems in your processes (e.g. bottlenecks, rework, and process exceptions causing software bots to break) by highlighting them in flowcharts and ranking them based on how they contribute to business outcomes. This helps you prioritize actions when you want to improve your business operations.

Step 4

See a prioritization of automation candidates

Once you’ve optimized your processes, process mining shows you which processes are suitable for automation – in priority order. View expected ROI, automate where it makes sense, and easily scale automation initiatives.

Step 5

Predict KPI Performance and prevent problems

Processes are continuously changing. Keep monitoring and predicting your KPIs and measure how your strategic objectives are met with process mining. Process mining gives you instant, dynamic reports - you won't need to waste time building reports manually.

The benefits of process mining

With process mining, you can find and get rid of your biggest process inefficiencies. Process mining not only visualizes your processes, but also reveals problem areas by highlighting them in the flowcharts and ranking them based on how they contribute to business outcomes. With process mining, you know where to start and what to prioritize when you want to improve your operations – and easily monitor how it went.

Process mining enables you to:

  • Get an x-ray of your processes
    Get a 100% objective view of your processes based on the data in your IT systems: understand your processes, see bottlenecks, errors, and other inefficiencies – and have the confidence to make the required changes in your processes.

    "You build an x-ray of your processes"
    -Siem Jaspers, Supply Chain Analyst, Terumo Europe
  • Quantify the value of improvement initiatives and automation
    Demonstrate value before and after implementing changes. Prove how improvement initiatives and automation contribute to concrete business outcomes.
  • Get your stakeholders on board
    You need to understand how your organization works, what to prioritize, and what to transform – and get everyone else on board. Process mining helps you make data-driven decisions with expected ROI and investigate the process in detail together with your stakeholders.
  • Get value in no time
    Process mining has a short time-to-value:

    “We gave the data of the system, and right away, in 5 minutes, we saw the bottlenecks of the process."
    -Piraeus Bank

Process mining use cases

Process mining can be applied to, essentially, any area where there is a process involved. Typical use cases include intelligent automation, digital transformation, compliance, auditing, KPI reporting, process improvement, and ERP development.

Intelligent Automation

RPA is often marketed as the panacea for all corporate inefficiencies. However, as RPA becomes more mature, companies are finding themselves stuck with high maintenance costs, broken bots, and no clue what’s changed in their processes.

To gain the most value out of your automation investment and reach your full operational potential, you need to start from the right processes, be aware of their exceptions, and continuously monitor and streamline them with the right tools. This requires all three parts of intelligent automation: RPA, AI, and process mining.

Process mining provides answers to questions such as:

  • What is the expected ROI for this automation initiative?
  • Which processes are the most suitable for automation?
  • What are the most common process exceptions?
  • How does the automation rate of a process vary across different countries?
  • How do I prove the value of this automation initiative?

Read more:

Process mining for Intelligent Automation (solution page)

7 ways in which process mining adds value to intelligent automation (blog)

 

Auditing

While auditors traditionally receive information on processes through extensive interviews and reviewing process documentation, process mining increases the effectiveness of the work of both internal and external auditors by providing them with instant, full insight into the organization’s present and past processes. This allows auditors to move from an analysis of subjective samples to an analysis of the objective, full, as-is process, bringing along assurance and cutting down on precious time consumed.

Read more: process mining for auditing (solution page).

 

Compliance

Process mining tools are an efficient and effective way to identify possible compliance issues. To check the compliance of processes, compliance managers traditionally have to go through extensive sampling, as processes often vary from one cycle to another. Still, this does not guarantee 100% transparency, as deviations fly past the human eye. Process mining on the other hand allows users to view, compare, and contrast processes in real-time. This significantly cuts down on the hassle and provides the end-user with a thorough list of all irregularities.

Read more:

Catch compliance issues in your Accounts Payables before it's too late.

 

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a must for any organization wanting to thrive in their current market. However, deciding on and justifying changes and new systems may be tricky. Process mining tools provide change managers with end-to-end visibility of their processes, making it easy to identify areas in need of improvement. Proving the value of automation has never been this easy – your case can be supported by the click of a button.

Read more: Process mining for digital transformation (solution page)

 

Process KPI Reporting

In order to make decisions based on facts and data, management teams need to have a system of smart, effective, and realistic KPIs. However, many businesses struggle with their KPI-related tasks: often, it simply takes too long to establish a KPI measurement and reporting system in the first place.

Included in a process mining model are already 1000+ KPIs – process mining users won't have to waste time waiting for individual KPIs to be built to monitor and report the state of the business. Process mining and the predictive capabilities provided by some vendors allow you to act on the most important KPIs already before potential issues or bottlenecks arise. This is effectively changing the way organizations think - from late fixes to preventive actions.

Read more: process mining for process intelligence (solution page)

 

Process Improvement

Process mining identifies where you should focus your process improvement efforts by highlighting long lead times, undesired process variations, sources of rework, among other process inefficiencies. Decrease time spent in defining, measuring, and analyzing issues in your Lean Six Sigma initiatives and use more time on improving and controlling your processes.

Read more: process mining for process improvement (solution page)

 

Logistics

Process mining is also used by IT professionals to manage the complexity of ERP migrations, implementations, and deployments. When organizations are about to either undertake a system transformation or implement a brand-new ERP, the first steps always involve understanding and reviewing the current process before moving on to new systems and processes.

Without having an end-to-end view of the processes continuously, they end up migrating the same ineffective processes into the new system while not being able to see the bottlenecks and problems in the migration. Process mining is used to tackle these challenges: it compares the as-is processes compared to the designed process models, shows the best and the worst process variations, and provides continuous end-to-end visibility of the process flow, and alerts users when problems arise.

Read more: process mining for IT and ERP development (solution page)

 

IT & ERP Development

Process mining is also used by IT professionals to manage the complexity of ERP migrations, implementations, and deployments. When organizations are about to either undertake a system transformation or implement a brand-new ERP, the first steps always involve understanding and reviewing the current process before moving on to new systems and processes.

Without having an end-to-end view of the processes continuously, they end up migrating the same ineffective processes into the new system while not being able to see the bottlenecks and problems in the migration. Process mining is used to tackle these challenges: it compares the as-is processes compared to the designed process models, shows the best and the worst process variations, and provides continuous end-to-end visibility of the process flow, and alerts users when problems arise.

Read more: process mining for IT and ERP development (solution page)

 

Process mining processes

Processes can be defined differently based on each business’ needs. However, fundamental business processes that most companies have include Purchase-to-Pay (P2P), Order-to-Cash (O2C), and Service Management processes. On top of this, there are supporting processes that process mining can help improve tremendously: Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Order Management, and Incident Management – to name a few examples.

Purchase-to-Pay

The Purchase-to-Pay process is also known as PtP, procure-to-pay, or req-to-check. It refers to business processes that cover requisitioning, purchasing, confirming, receiving, paying for, and accounting for goods and services.

As the transactional volume is extremely high and often quite complex (with different approvals, procedures requests and suppliers), each step within the processes is a potential source of errors. This makes Purchase-to-Pay a good target for process mining, which brings visibility to the entire end-to-end process and identifies root causes for problems such as bottlenecks, uncompliant processes, and Maverick Buying.

Read more: 

Identifying Maverick Buying in PtP with process mining (blog)

Process mining for Procurement (solution page)

Accounts Payable

Accounts payable processes are carried out continuously throughout all companies, regardless of industry or size. It is one of the broadest and most important processes, yet many find it hard to keep track of the endless paths that an invoice may take on its route to payment. Furthermore, unwanted invoices that end up in the stream as well as extensive policies and regulations do not make the job any easier.

Process mining can help you at every step of the way by providing you with a transparent and easily comprehendible view of your complete processes. As such, you can identity points at which payments are overdue, why these delays occur, and which invoices end up in the wrong hands.

This enables you to cut down on the rate of overall outstanding receivables, reduce the amount of time spent on manual corrections, improve cash flow, and showcase your accountability to your partners.


Read more: How to Use the Accounts Payable Process to Gain Competitive Advantage

 

Accounts Receivable

Without accounts receivable (A/R) processes, your business would quickly see your available capital diminish from your bank accounts. In all simplicity, the process follows the following pattern: an invoice is created, sent out, and paid. However, as with any process, things are bound to sometimes not go according to plan. The terms of an agreement may change, the invoice may have had incorrect billing information, or the receiving partner was supposed to be subject to a price decrease – sending your invoices on a path of inefficiency.

Process mining is your safeguard to smooth A/R processes and the answer to the question “where are we going wrong?”. With process mining, you will be able to drill down in detail on where incorrect invoices are sent out or what clients are causing delays, how these cause inefficiencies, and what changes you can make to improve your cash flow. With process mining you may find that simple acts of automation or a change in the invoicing path may significantly improve your performance.

 

Order-to-Cash

The Order-to-Cash (OtC) process covers the whole process cycle of handling customer orders, extending across different units, such as warehousing, delivery, invoicing, and account management. Consequently, the Order-to-Cash process is a key business process in many enterprise information systems. A typical OtC process includes five major steps: sales order created, picking done, confirmed delivery date, invoice created, and payment received.

However, it's not always this straightforward. The Order-to-Cash process is usually a high-volume process that often has lots of variations (for instance, unwanted changes in the process that prolong lead times and affect both internal efficiency and customer satisfaction).

Process mining visualizes the OtC process continuously and automatically. It shows you how to reduce rework, delays, and order changes by showing root causes for the inefficiencies discovered in your OtC process. Moreover, process mining helps you identify delivery or automation blocks and compliance issues with ready-made analyses and charts and monitor the performance of the end-to-end process continuously.

Read more: Process Mining for the Order-to-Cash Process (blog)

 

Order Management

From running out of stock, lost shipments, to long production times, order management is an endless loop of faulty processes. Where companies often push to work faster to make sure that products reach the end customer as quickly as possible, they often fall short on viewing order management from a holistic perspective. In order to be fast, you will have to understand your complete process and as such you will be able to avoid time-consuming errors piling up.

Furthermore, order management is about meeting the client’s expectations and quick delivery, although important, is only one aspect thereof. Customers also expect accurate information about their delivery, from a to-the-day accurate estimated time of delivery time to an on-call ability to check the status of their order. By providing you with a complete view of your order management process, process mining enables you to meet your clients’ expectations: pin-point inefficiencies in order processing, provide data-based delivery time estimates, and understand where accuracy would be a better KPI than speed.

Read more: process mining for order management (solution page)

 

Service Management

From the starting point of your service management processes all the way until resolving a customer case or service-level agreement, a record exists of when such an event took place in the service management process. Process mining provides an unbiased, fact-based analysis of service management processes.

QPR ProcessAnalyzer transforms the event traces - the process data - into actionable insights. Spotting breaches of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and monitoring the state of company-wide or unit-wide service requests has never been easier.

Read more: process mining for service management (solution page)

 

Incident Management

An incident is an unplanned interruption to an IT Service that may result in complete unavailability or a reduction in the quality. The goal of the incident management process is to restore a normal service operation as quickly as possible and to minimize the impact on business operations. However, this is not a straightforward process, and often involves multiple people in multiple different teams.

Process mining serves as a tool for you to synchronize your data of actual responses to incidents and through analysis thereof examine similarities and differences in incident management across the whole organization. This allows not only a check of conformance and an evaluation of a specific incident, but also for a continuous loop of incident management improvement as your compilation of event data can be compared across time and place.

Read more: 10 benefits of using process mining for incident management (blog)

 

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