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Now that I have your attention (I hope) on the wonderful topic of process mining and the kind of use cases you could bring into practice, I would like to take a couple of minutes of your time this week to take a step back to share my thoughts a little bit on some more strategic considerations around process mining.

Process mining, very often (at least in my experience) starts out as a local, somewhat isolated, exercise in order to gain insight in the way processes are actually executed for a defined part of the organization and don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with that. Typical starting points are high frequency business processes such as Order to Cash and Purchase to Pay, but also customer complaints or incident management processes are often in scope for these first steps in process mining.

The fact that these first steps are taken locally also usually means that the ownership of process mining has been defined locally in the organization. In very large organizations (and I’m talking about companies with 30-40K+ employees and a large geographical spread) this can lead to the fact that multiple different process mining solutions have been implemented, all in these local projects, or pilots or proof of concepts (whatever name you want to give it). Again, for the first steps this is fine, however at the moment that you plan to consolidate on that and bring your process mining capabilities to the next level, you would need to think about the what and where.

Before I go into that rabbit hole, let me backtrack a little first and take you to the very proverbial top of the organization. It all starts with the mission and vision of an organization (and derived from that the strategic targets and  goals), which is translated and detailed out into an operating model. From here you typically go into the hierarchy of business processes in order to define what needs to get done (in what order and by whom) and this is done over various different levels of detail until you finally arrive at the how level in the work instructions or SOP’s. The picture below shows this cascade from the strategy to the execution.

What it also shows is the role certain supporting technologies play (such as RPA, Task Mining, IoT and of course, process mining) in this big picture. It is at this level that, at a certain point in time, you would need to take that important decision on: what are going to do with process mining? I believe there are three options to choose from:

  1. You continue with local, ad hoc, one off process mining initiatives
  2. You integrate process mining into your wider process management practice
  3. You do both

Let’s dwell on the first two for a minute. In case of option 1, you can get quick results, albeit they might be limited in scope and therefor limited in effectiveness. I would also require significant effort to replicate the results in either other part of the organization for the same process or for other processes all together. On the other side of the spectrum we find option 2, which in the long run provides a more stable foundation to expand process mining use cases, however it does take a considerable effort to get this foundation up and running. It requires a top level decision to do this and the formation of a central group that takes care of the implementation and continuous management and governance of the process mining capability. Nevertheless, for the long run, option 2 is the only viable option, as option 1 has a higher probability of diminishing into oblivion at the moment the next business tool comes around the corner.

Would there be an even better solution, and yes, of course there is and you saw it coming from a mile away, didn’t you? Option 3 has the potential to take the best parts of options 1 and 2 and the reason why this would work lies in the fact that any adoption of a new technology in an organization relies on a couple of factors, of which the ability to achieve quick results is a very important one, and the avoidance of wheel re-invention in the long run is another very important one. Option 1 takes care of the quick results, while option 2 enables the structural usage without reinventing the wheel.

Strangely (or maybe not), this also works for the implementation business process management in general and these two capabilities are very compatible and it is exactly this compatibility that creates the synergy you need to facilitate the execution of your precious business processes in the best way possible. Just think back to one the use cases from my blog of last week: conformance checking. You have defined a theoretical business process and documented it in the form of a process model. This model then subsequently functions as a reference model for conformance checking. This will give you insight in how the different groups in your organization execute their processes. It also provides opportunities to select discovered variants of your business process execution and have them documented automatically into your business process repository. It’s an ongoing circle of continuous improvement basically.

Now, that should do it for now, I’ll come back to this integration part with your process management practice in next week’s blog. If you can't wait to get started on process mining, click here

I hope you enjoyed the read!

Ciao, Caspar

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