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7 Reasons for Consultants to do Process Mining 12

One of the main benefits of process mining is that it can help you understand how your process really works based on hard evidence. Process mining uses log data from IT systems, which allows an objective reconstruction of the process flows.

On the other side of the spectrum are manual process documentation activities, which are in the domain of process consultants. Interviews are time-consuming and often difficult due to different interpretations of reality:

Requirements analysis resorts to more objective elicitation methods such as observing employees to reveal hidden assumptions. Process mining goes further by objectively analyzing past process executions over a potentially large time frame. One can then either focus on the “happy flows” or look at the complete picture, including all the exceptions, depending on the desired level of detail.

Nevertheless, the goal of process mining is not to eliminate talking to people — quite to the contrary. It can facilitate discussions in workshops and interviews by providing a starting point. So, you don’t have to start from an empty sheet. Talking to people and doing process mining are complementary.

To make it more concrete, I collected 7 reasons to do process mining as a consultant:

1. Come up with first results quickly

Since the traditional process discovery activities can take several weeks or months, there is a considerable time in the beginning of the project where your client may not see the value that you deliver. Being able to do a process mining quick scan of just one of the most important processes, and to come up with first results and hypotheses quickly, can help to increase trust and engage people for the remainder of the project.

2. Ask “Why” instead of “What”

Because process mining provides an objective reference on how things are done, you can focus on understanding the “why” of the process. The reasons for why people work the way they do can rarely be uncovered using observation or data analysis. However, understanding the root causes of inefficiencies also on the human level is crucial to successfully implement organizational change. Focus on the “why” and maximize your value by digging deeper than you normally could.

3. Get a head start within new domains

Most consultants are specialized to assist clients in specific domains. In domains they have worked before they know how to approach their job, since processes in many domains are quite similar. Having a tool to quickly understand the process landscape of an unfamiliar domain can help you when taking on assignments in new domains. Also, such a tool can increase the productivity especially of junior analysts, right from the start.

4. Skip workshops in politically difficult situations

Sometimes politics prevent you from bringing everyone to the table who should be there for a process documentation project. People may refuse to collaborate because of internal power struggles, because they don’t see the use, or because they don’t see a problem. In such situations, the use of log data to understand how the process works can help to skip interviews and process discovery workshops, and to still be able to perform a process analysis and deliver results.

5. Underpin the credibility of your results

Knowing the ‘as-is’ process is essential for being able to decide which route should be taken to achieve a goal. Unlike with typical query tools, where you need to know the question in advance, process mining can provide you with a complete picture of what is happening.
Furthermore, having an objective basis for your problem analysis gives you credibility and helps to underpin the correctness of your conclusion. Nobody can say they don’t believe you when you can prove your points with hard data.

6. Help your client to justify changes within the company

Sometimes, your client is with you — but other people in the company don’t believe in the project and just dismiss the results as “not true”. What can you do? By providing your clients with an objective reference you can put them in a stronger position and help them succeed at what they want to achieve within their own organization.

7. Compare “before” and “after”

Especially for process improvement projects you may want to demonstrate the effect of the implemented changes. For example, you can show how the process has been streamlined after a change (and one month of new data collection) by comparing the “before” and “after” images. Ideally, the process performs much better now, and you can use process mining to communicate these results.

So, this was my list of seven reasons for doing process mining as a consultant. Let me know whether you agree or disagree, and tell me what I am missing!

Comments (12)

Hi Anne,

Another great list of selling points for process mining ๐Ÿ™‚

I would replace point 6 (since it is similar to point 5) with the argument that you have more analysis possibilities. Besides process discovery you can also apply performance analysis, social network analysis, business rule detection, etc. etc.

Looking forward to another insightful post ๐Ÿ™‚

Joos

Thanks, Joos!

You are right about your point. It’s too implicit right now that it is more than discovery. In a way, I was thinking of people taking times with a stop watch as a part of the manual documentation.

Point 5 and 6 are different drivers though. Don’t you think?

Hi Anne,

First of all, you’re right, points 5 and 6 are different. I only remembered the last half of point 5 which can be considered the same as point 6 (proving with hard data). But separating them is a good choice (and 7 is a magic number :P)

Although process discovery is the first and main use of process mining, the other analysis techniques should not be forgotten.
Furthermore, I don’t see a feasible non-process mining approach for analysis such as performance, social network, etc. Timing each and every action manually for instance is a cumbersome task and is not always possible.

Joos

Hi Anne,

I like your 7 reasons to do process mining as a consultant. Indeed process mining should be the starting point for better discussions and not to eliminate talking to people. When looking a the photo I wonder what David Brent/Ricky Gervais would do with process mining. It would be a pity if such irrational behavior would disappear in corporate environments :-).

Wil.

Thanks, Wil! I agree, it would be a pity ๐Ÿ™‚

Hi Anne,

I would change point 4. It’s not that you can skip interviews, it just proofs who is lying and who is not. Which is a good outcome in itself. And makes it more efficient (so possibly less nr of interviews needed: but I would not count on that).

It will definitely not replace interviews.
You need buy-in and if nobody is cooperating you need to face this problem rather than avoid it.

Hi Mark,

Good point. In principle, this is also the main argument of this post: That you need to talk to people and that process mining is not meant to avoid but to enhance that.

Perhaps mining some relevant process information upfront can be used to prove that there are problems (if any) and in this way convince people to buy in and participate?

Hi Anne,
I agree with your points, specially #2. As already pointed out by Wil about #4, you cannot skip the discussion about the process but delay and ask why’s rather than what’s. Moreover the process is not always structured and parts of the process are completely manual and cannot be found out in event logs of the systems. You would have to discuss with stakeholders in order to get the complete process.
Sukriti

Hi Sukriti,

Thanks for the input. That’s absolutely right, manual parts of the process will always need to be discovered via interviews (or must be made observable first to be evaluated in an automated way).

Hi Anne,

Great list! I also agree with earlier comments about #4. Politics are always an issue and should not be avoided. I wourld You probably mean that process mining results can bring plain facts in discussions that are mostly about opinions and (personal) interests.

I would also like to challenge you to come with a list of 7 pitfalls using process mining.

Hi Matthijs,

Good point and nice challenge! I added the ‘7 pitfalls’ to my list of future topics and will let you know when I get around to do it.

[…] challenged me to come up with a list of 7 pitfalls using process mining. To allow for a more detailed discussion, […]


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