Understanding the Difference between Digital Process Discovery, Mining, and Mapping

Damo VasudevanDamo Vasudevan, November 22

Digital transformation can be a lot like constructing a highrise building. Starting off on a digital transformation journey can be easy, just as building the ground floor of a highrise can be easy, but the more floors you add, the more structural support you need and things quickly become complicated and can break down. Referencing a McKinsey study, a recent Forbes article, “Companies That Failed At Digital Transformation And What We Can Learn From Them,” declared that “a staggering 70% of digital transformation projects fail” because of roadblocks they encounter that cannot be overcome.

To achieve success you need a way to eliminate many of these roadblocks from popping up when you’re far down the path of a digital transformation project. One method is to gain a deep understanding of current state business operations. Various methods exist, and some are more detailed and accurate than others. So, let’s break it down.

There are 3 major methods used to gain a complete understanding of your current state that are in use today:

  1. Process Discovery
  2. Process Mining
  3. Process Mapping

 

Process Mapping

Process mapping is the human-side of establishing an ‘as-is-process.’ It’s usually performed by consultants and starts with manually measuring a business process against an organization's larger vision to ensure that processes are aligned with a company’s core competencies, capabilities, and overarching values. Traditionally this has involved manual interviews with subject matter experts (SMEs) and is subjective based on the SME’s view of the process. Although it’s important to map out a high level process flow, at best, you capture only a couple different process iterations. And, apart from being highly subjective, it is resource intensive and expensive given the cost of consultants or business analysts to travel and perform interviews, as well as the time commitment for the SME. It can often take several weeks or months to produce results.

 

Process Mining

Process mining is a more modern method using technology to generate a high level view of a process in order to identify and examine bottlenecks. Mining tools also typically require a business analyst to label the data before algorithms can be applied. These solutions offer great visualizations of overall process timing and high level bottlenecks in the process, and work well in decoding the interactions within a single ERP system like SAP or Oracle. The biggest drawback with this approach is the need for access to log files. This method can be cost-prohibitive due to additional needs like building APIs to sync systems. It can also be much less accurate if the process involves applications such as Excel or email which do not produce log files; the actions performed by a user outside of what is in the logs are completely ignored, reducing overall process coverage.

 

Process Discovery

Taking an automated approach to process discovery is the latest generation of technology that takes a cognitive approach to learning a process. Digital process discovery uses computer vision -- instead of system-generated logs -- to observe and capture the process as it’s being executed by a user in real time. Using a highly scalable cloud-based platform, the data captured is translated into extremely granular time and motion studies from the processes discovered. This AI-driven approach is compatible with all systems and applications -- including ERP, email, and web-based -- with no integrations or APIs required. Because of the methods used in capturing the information, it delivers a 100% accurate depiction of processes and tasks. For example, you may have 40 users in a department executing the same task 35 different ways and digital process discovery can visualize these differences and calculate the length of time for each version. The insights gained from this level of detail can be used to rapidly accelerate digital transformation initiatives such as automation and RPA, process reengineering, and process documentation for compliance or auditing. 

Overall, each method can compliment one another, and can be useful for digital transformation projects. However, digital process discovery offers the most complete solution and can add tremendous value by eliminating roadblocks that you may encounter on your digital transformation journey. For more information, check out our infographic on process discovery versus process mining.