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26 March 2021

How Process Mining Unlocks your Automation Potential

When you get automation right, you can dramatically improve productivity, performance and your customer experience. But what is the point of automating processes if you aren’t sure where your processes were going wrong in the first place, or whether you are even putting the most suitable processes forward for automation?

In response to the pandemic, businesses around the world are digitally transforming at warp speed. A study by McKinsey & Co found that many executives have amplified funding for new technologies, and companies have accelerated their digitisation plans by three to four years.

While this certainly represents a positive and welcome change in the world of work, your company must take care not to get swept up in the tidal wave of transformation and rush into automation just for the sake of it. Rather, you need a clear plan; and the first step is understanding how you are performing at a business process level.

Having said that, many organisations today don’t have much clarity on their ‘as is’ processes. In other words: they aren’t aware how processes are actually being performed in their organisations. Without this knowledge, it can be difficult to identify:

  • Where processes are working and where they are not
  • Which problems require urgent attention
  • Which types of technologies are best suited to solving these pressing issues

If you’re in this boat, there is a solution! 

Enter process mining tools

Before process mining software emerged on the market, documenting and mapping processes was a mammoth and often costly undertaking. This typically involved gathering and collating data manually – either bogging down internal resources or outsourcing this to an external specialist at considerable expense.

Now, process mining software can solve these challenges. This technology allows you to easily capture information on your processes from the enterprise systems you work with every day. Using data mining capabilities, this software inspects system and event logs, and then documents your ‘as is’ processes. Much of the procedure is automatic, which means you don’t have to set aside resources for this previously labour-intensive work.

With detailed data on your processes, you can:

  • Map processes:
    Use visual, web-based process mapping tools to create a process diagram that everyone can understand and work with.
  • Gain clarity:
    With a clear view on process performance, you know all the steps, systems and people involved in each process.
  • Make decisions based on data:
    Use intelligent tools to analyse the data, so you can identify trends and patterns (such as bottlenecks, inconsistencies and potential compliance breaches).
  • Make transformation more collaborative:
    Collect feedback from key stakeholders on process pain points and ideas for improvement.
  • Agree on the way forward:
    Create a shared understanding of how the ‘to be’ process should run.  

With all this information clearly visible to everyone in the team, it is easier for your organisation to agree on the processes or process components that need to be improved. From here, you can identify and priorities automation opportunities.  

Process mining supports automation decision-making

Beyond helping you to identify which processes are ripe for automation, process mining also helps you choose the most suitable technologies for digitising and transforming that process or task within a process.

For example:

  • Robotic process automation (RPA) technology is best suited to tasks and processes that are repetitive and rule-based. In other words: the processes that run the same way each time, at high volume, with no need for exception handling.  
  • Workflow and case management technology is ideal for processes that require some human input and exception handling, or judgement and decision-making. This type of technology can orchestrate the flow of work between different resources and systems, including RPA robots and people.  
  • Low-code application development technology can be called in to turn piles of paperwork, disconnected documents and spreadsheets, and confusing email communication chains into digital forms. 

And the list goes on! The key thing to understand here, is that in order to optimise and streamline processes from end-to-end, and automate anything that can be automated, you may need to combine multiple types of automation capabilities. This way, you can get more value out of automation.

(So, as you see, understanding your process glitches is the best way to inform your automation technology decisions. If you scramble to automate without looking at your processes first, you may choose the wrong technology for the job – with disappointing results.)

Further, once you have implemented your automation technologies, you can continue using process mining tools to monitor process performance and use that data to drive continual process improvement. This gives your business a critical advantage at a time when business agility is all-important.

If you’d like to talk about how process mining and mapping can benefit your business, get in touch.