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:
- Employees may have problems to articulate how they work in a complete fashion. Because they do these things every day, many aspects of their work will seem obvious to them.
- They are likely to describe only the ‘sunny day scenarios’ or ‘happy flows’, and forget about the exceptions.
- Or, they might emphasize the exceptions and things they are not happy with in a disproportionate way.
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!