Where Process Mining fits in Business Process Improvement (BPI)

If it can be measured, it probably can be improved. But how can organizations effectively measure the “as-is” process? How can they define and execute changes within the process and measure the impact of these changes along the way? This is where Process Mining adds value to Business Process Improvement.

Business Process Improvement (BPI)

Business Process Improvement (BPI) is family of strategic methodologies aimed at identifying improvement opportunities to encourage smoother procedures, more efficient flow of work and/or overall business growth. It targets to identify organization’s ‘as-is’ processes’ and identify steps that can be changed, removed or replaced to achieve a pre-defined goal. That goal might be to increase customer satisfaction, reduce operational costs or improve specified KPIs. BPI is concerned with the entire improvement journey.

In Business Process Improvement, the aim is not to improve the symptoms, but to address the underlying root causes that lead to higher costs, slower growth and missed opportunities. These can be caused by for instance lack of harmonization between Strategy, Process, People and (IT-) infrastructure, unstandardized processes, unwarranted deviations etc.
Process mapping/ discovery, which assesses business operations to identify problem areas, is often the first step in a larger business process improvement effort.

Process Mining

Process mining is an automated, systematic approach to defining the ‘as-is’ state of any business process to identify waste, bottlenecks, anomalies, and opportunities. Process Mining relies on verifiable event data within IT systems and replaces manual process mapping, which is inherently affected by human error and is time consuming.

“Process mining can be used throughout the entire BPI lifecycle as a fast and accurate way to consistently analyze the process in order to sustain and monitor process change”

Process Mining can be used with all of the above mentioned BPI methodologies.

Process Mining with BPI

Regardless of the process you are looking to improve, the improvement steps follow a similar path: understand the process you are looking to improve (mapping), identify need for change (analysis), redesign the process, implement the change, reflect and benchmark. A critical first step is gaining a deep understanding of how the process actually works in real life. Guidelines and documentation may account for the designed state while process mining is concerned with the actual state.
Traditionally, organizations relied on manual process mapping to paint a picture, or a map, of how a process worked. This involves interviews, workshops and document studies. A significant level of subjectivity is involved in this.
When process mapping becomes automated process discovery, subjectivity, human-error and time waste are virtually eliminated. Process mining takes numerous time-stamped events data from IT systems and Databases and transforms them into a story that shows the reality of any given process. By using data, process mining builds confidence and certainty into the early phases of BPI.
Process mining objectively views anomalies, quickly identifies process bottlenecks and their root causes, and uncovers steps, or missing parts, of a process that employees are either unaware of or fail to highlight.
Process mining appears again and again throughout a BPI initiative as changes are implemented, and continuous process monitoring and evaluation is required. Once process mining is established it can easily be used to re-analyze the updated process and create a clear benchmark of measurement at any stage necessary.

Business Process Improvement Methodologies

There is no one right methodology to BPI, but a number of proven frameworks do exist and it’s a matter of defining the organizational needs, resources and preferences to find the methodology that best suits the time and place. The most common BPI methodologies are mentioned below.

Total Quality Management (TQM): together with Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) part of World Class Manufacturing (WCM) created decades ago awareness of continuous process improvement in the minds of management.

Six Sigma: focusses on finding and removing the causes of defects in a process, with the goal of becoming virtually error-free. It employs the DMAIC 5 step approach: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control and has a strong structure of champions and sponsors (Yellow, Green and Black Belts), requires management involvement, while simultaneously creating a true team-level culture of continuous improvement.

The DMAIC Cycle

Lean Management: a customer-centric approach to BPI concerned with eliminating waste in a process. In Lean Thinking, a step in a process is said to be “value-added” if it ultimately benefits the customer or business, and they would be willing to pay for it. Things that do not add value to the customer or business such as idle time, inspection, mistakes and rework, overproduction and storage of inventory, and unnecessary handling or movement, are considered waste. They add needless cost to a product or service.

Lean Principles

Theory of Constraints (TOC): Every process within a business has a bottleneck or weak link (constraint) that diminishes the output of the process. By focusing improvement efforts on the weakest area of a process (or the weakest system of the business), you will achieve the greatest impact on sales, customer satisfaction, and profit.

TOC Cycle

CMMI: a Maturity model for assessment of Process thinking. Process Mining can support during all CMMI stages, either through Process Discovery during ‘Performed’, Processing Times analysis during ‘Managed’, Adherence to standardized processes during “Defined’, KPI measurement during ‘Qualitatively Managed’ or Best Practice comparison during ‘Optimized’.

CMMI maturity levels

Advantages of Process Mining in BPI

Using Process Mining in BPI seems trivial. It helps in getting clarity of the actual processes. Other advantages include:

  • It reduces the throughput time of a BPI Project, it can significantly reduce the mapping and analysis time, since we use automated process discovery. This automation can be re-used to measure progress later on in the project.
  • Quality of the analysis will rise, as it is based on verifiable data. No subjective agendas would be involved, all supporting data would be fact-based.
  • Visualization of the process makes the communication and presentation to stakeholders interactive and easier. Add the possibility of animations and can see it’s potential
  • Process Mining can be used in all Process Improvement methodologies, in all architectures and in all organizational cultures.

Challenges of Process Mining in BPI

Challenges in using Process Mining as part off Business Process Improvement:

  • Analysis of the so called “Spaghetti processes” to meaningful insights. As Process Mining gives you all the details it is key to chose the right aggregation levels and attributes.
  • The extraction and transformation of data takes time and effort. Getting and importing the data is not trivial given the sometimes dispersed IT landscape of an organization.
  • Poor quality of data makes Process Mining less reliable, so it needs correct data: ‘garbage in is garbage out’ is also applicable for here.
  • The advantages outweigh the challenges, thereby making Process Mining an essential tool for Process Improvement.

Talk to one of our experts to understand how we can support your organization in achieving Business Process Improvement success through Process Mining.

Eric Hellemons
Call: +31 6 18 84 61 98
E-mail: eric.hellemons@squadra.nl

Enno Kroesen
Call: +31 6 38 78 79 57
E-mail: enno.kroesen@squadra.nl

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