22. February 2024

Why process mining is the start point for process improvement

Process Automation

A good business is run on good processes – from the way you onboard new employees to how you build your sales pipeline, get paid on time, and maintain customer success. Good process forms the blueprint for how your organisation operates. Therefore, when something goes wrong, like a compliance breach, not meeting a customer’s expectations, or reduced profit margins, the process is always a good place to start your investigation into what happened and why.

No organisation sets out to purposefully create a bad process. However, even the best designed process will evolve organically over time to include sub processes, work arounds, or bottlenecks. And as the business grows, these processes naturally become more complex.

The likelihood is, you know your business has inefficiencies but until you can pinpoint where they are, you don’t know how to make improvements.

Traditional approaches to process improvement require significant manual effort. You need to task a business analyst to perform manual observations, interviews and surveys, so they can map out what is happening and make recommendations. But manual data capture creates its own inefficiencies, through the increased likelihood of data entry errors, high labour costs, and being a time-consuming process.

What’s needed is a new approach: process mining.

What is process mining?

Process mining uses live data and allows you to gather deeper insights at the fraction of the time it would take a business analyst to reveal the root cause of process inefficiencies. Using event logs, process mining enables you to discover, visualise and analyse business processes to pinpoint the bottlenecks and inefficiencies, which reveal opportunities for you to improve.

Process mining enables you to mature as an organisation, because you can see what is happening and when, as well as WHY. With this granular visibility into your processes, you can begin to make informed decisions about where to make changes and the resulting business impact.

At the moment, process mining is a huge untapped opportunity, as less than 1 in 5 of organisations consider themselves to be ‘mature’ in optimising their processes for continuous improvement. However, the business intelligence that process mining delivers is considered so valuable it’s driving the market to grow at a CAGR of 33%.

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How process mining works.

Every time you use a system or application, it automatically logs the action taken. This ‘event log’ contains 3 important pieces of information:

  • Case ID: a unique identifier, such as a sales order number.
  • Event type: to explain what happened, for example a transaction.
  • A timestamp: to log the precise time the action was completed.

A process mining tool will collect this information to create a digital audit of the ACTUAL process, which can be quite different from what people think the process is when you interview them. The process mining tool will then model the data to help you visualise what’s going on start-to-finish, as well as highlight variations, so you can make informed, data-driven decisions about where to make improvements.

Where does process mining fit into process intelligence?

According to the market leader and our partner for intelligent data capture, ABBYY:

“Process intelligence is a combination of data-driven capabilities dedicated to the analysis and enhancement of business operations. It uses the data from a business’ own information systems to uncover patterns and insights that point the way to new operational efficiencies. The five essential pillars for sustainable process intelligence are process discovery, process analysis, process monitoring, process prediction, and process simulation.”

Process mining takes place during the ‘process discovery’ phase and is fundamental to understanding the ‘as-is’ picture of how your business actually operates. It’s only once process mining has taken place that you can move forward to action the insights gained.

Top 3 benefits of process mining

Process mining offers a wealth of benefits. We discuss our top three below.

1. Transparency: a data-driven approach to process improvement

Where traditional approaches have relied on interviews, which can be subjective, process mining uses high-quality data to gain the insights needed to run your business more efficiently and effectively. It allows you to see the facts and question ‘why’, to help you get to a better outcome.

For example, “If a house insurance claim takes twice as long as car insurance claim, why is that? What can we change to make house insurance claims quicker? What impact would that have?”

In helping to quantify the value of improvement initiatives before making a decision, it provides reassurance to senior leaders and helps those on the frontline understand why changes are being made. And then once up and running, you can embark on continuous process improvement, because you’re constantly investigating and adjusting your business processes to keep the business agile.

2. Pain points: where does it hurt?

Even with the best of intentions, if you ask someone to map out a specific business process, they’re likely to miss steps, fail to identify edge cases, not know how long things take, or be unsure about exactly what happens at each stage of the process. Process mining overcomes this uncertainty because it draws on precise data based on real-world conditions.

Very quickly it becomes apparent where the bottlenecks, handoffs, and inefficiencies are, as well as unnecessary steps and sub-processes.

In addition, you can identify potential risks/compliance issues, for example, where people are deviating from a process, which could leave the business exposed to threat actors, fraudulent activities, or a legislative breach.

3. Cost reduction: eliminate ‘work about work’

The Anatomy of Work Global Index 2023 shows workers spend the majority of their day (58%) on ‘work about work’, rather than the skilled strategic jobs they want to do. By helping you to identify unnecessary/redundant steps in a process, process mining can help you start to eliminate this burden and redirect staff to the valuable work they were hired to do.

Furthermore, at a time when many organisations are tasked with doing more with less, process mining offers a way to achieve this, while also achieving better outcomes.

Process mining will highlight tasks that are better suited to automation because a human adds little value during this step. Better still, it can create new value for your organisation. Imagine your client onboarding process. If you automate the process to gather eSignatures and file the documents in the appropriate place, it speeds up the process, provides a better customer experience by avoiding back and forth on email, and ultimately starts the relationship off on the right foot.

Use cases for process mining

When it comes to process mining, there are no limitations on where it can be used to impact your business. According to Forrester:

“The more complex a process regarding the number of tasks and variations to complete, variety of human contributors, IT systems involved, and data types created and processed, the higher the benefits of mining the process...Transparent processes on an operational level are the center piece and starting point of any automation…Uncovering, visualizing, and improving processes before automating them is top priority.”

To help you think about where process mining can have the biggest impact, we find it helps to think on both a sector specific level, as well as operationally. The following are some examples of how process mining can be used to transform a business:

Supply chain management: to reveal delays that impact the customer experience and impact your profit margins.

Banking: to reimagine the process of setting up a new account, so applications take minutes, rather than days.

Financial services: to find vulnerabilities in the process, which leaves the business exposed to fraud or potential compliance issues.

Shared services: to identify duplicate steps that can lead to discrepancies, so those steps can be automated for precision.

Sustainability: to help attribute emissions to every step in the process, so you know where the biggest improvements can be made to lower your carbon footprint.

Systems: to track KPIs through your operations and identify the moments where the business isn’t operating optimally, or clients are dropping off.

Workforce productivity: to capture how and where time is spent and identify where automation could eliminate ‘work about work’.

Process mining that helps you reach your full potential

Inpute will end process inefficiency in your organisation because we have a talent for unpacking complex systems and scenarios to find the simplest and neatest way to address your problem.

For example, we’ve helped:

  • A transport group to reduce their invoice processing time by 50%, freeing up staff to focus on more valuable work.
  • A utility provider to automate the processing of 2,500 timesheets per week with a significant reduction in errors.
  • A global finance organisation to automate the matching of 250,000 invoices in a variety of languages across 55 operating units.
  • A global retail group to reduce their use of paper in the office by 85% by automatically extracting key data from electronic documents at source.

There are few other providers who have our depth of knowledge or experience in this area. At Inpute, we partner with innovative software vendors, like ABBYY, to ensure you benefit from the very best our industry has to offer.

If you’re looking for deeper insights that reveal the true ‘as-is’ picture of how your business operates, contact us today and discover how process mining will grant you that granular visibility.

Authored By David Andrews


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