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Process Mining, Low-code, and the Future of Innovation, Part 1

Roland Alston, Appian
October 7, 2021

This is the decade of hyperautomation—a decade when companies are doubling down on mating critical processes to drive sustainable growth. But here’s the problem. An eye-popping 60 to 80% of your organization’s processes may be running on unstructured data such as documents and email according to news reports. Which makes them that much harder to automate manage and audit.

If that sounds familiar, and if it’s also true that what you don’t know can put your business at risk, perhaps it’s time to close the gap between what’s actually happening inside your business processes and what you think is happening there.

This is where process mining technology comes in. We’re talking software with capabilities far beyond those of mortal spreadsheets. Technology that can help the largest enterprise visualize process data faster than a speeding consultant, leverage AI-driven insights to streamline operations quicker than a six sigma blackbelt, and unravel process bottlenecks and fix them faster than you ever imagined. 

Perhaps this is why:

  • 63% of large organizations have adopted process mining.
  • 77% of companies with pilot solutions plan to expand them
  • 83% of companies using process mining globally plan to scale
  • 87% of non-adopters are planning pilot projects. 

So says recent research from Deloitte

But what exactly is process mining? Basically speaking, process mining creates event logs (interaction data) that give you visibility into your processes. For example, it can help you see when an order is received, a payment is made, a customer problem is resolved and the like. It generates time-stamped data that makes it easier for organizations to automatically eliminate process bottlenecks, optimize workflows, eliminate speed bumps in customer experience, and find and fix process problems faster than you ever imagined.

In the past, process analysis involved manual work and consultants, not to mention spreadsheets, and process analysis based on subjective interviews and sticky notes. But if that old-school approach isn’t your thing, if you want a better, faster, more efficient way to unlock process improvement opportunities and take advantage of them, read on. 

The COVID-19 crisis accelerated investment in business process automation, which means the value of process mining has never been more clear. It’s also worth noting that as companies lean into the convergence of process mining and low-code automation, they may also be better positioned to adapt to the volatility of the post-pandemic world, better able to react to customer expectations, and better equipped to outmaneuver competitors, and create long-term customer value.

No one knows for sure, but as the hyperautomation trend continues to evolve, the pairing of process mining and low-code platforms may gain even more traction with companies across the globe. Watch this space for more of that. In the meantime, check out the following interview with process mining expert Karina Buschsieweke, formerly Co-Founder & Managing Director at Lana Labs, a Berlin-based process mining firm recently acquired by low-code vendor Appian. Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity. 


So, let's start at the beginning. What is process mining, how has it evolved over the years, and what role can it play in a company's digital transformation journey. Let's start with that.


All right. So, if we look at the theoretical definition, process mining is the visualization and analysis of how processes are being executed. That's a simple definition. And basically, what it means is that process mining creates a digital footprint of your business processes, based on data stored in your IT systems.

Process mining generates what’s called a digital twin of your organization. And organizations can use this data to really see what's going on inside their business processes.

In the past, a lot of this work was done manually, which took lots of precious time and resources. Today, process mining uses digital technology to automatically reveal process data stored in your systems.


And so, how does this kind of automated process analysis fit into a company's digital transformation strategy?


When you think about digital transformation, you usually think about best practices for your organization which is a good thing. But the important question is why are you doing digital transformation, right? I mean, you're not doing it for the sake of doing it. You want to improve something. But you need a basis to be able to measure where you are today and to monitor your digital transformation journey. 

So, process mining actually really helps you to figure out where in your organization it makes the most sense to start digitization initiatives, to see where your processes are still manual, to see where they are causing problems, and to prioritize which processes to digitize next.


And so, where does traditional business process management (BPM) fit into that picture? What is the connection or relationship between traditional BPM and digital process mining?


So, traditional process analysis is usually done manually by interviewing people. And this takes a lot of time and effort. It’s also really subjective because people are involved. Which means you often have to rely on gut feelings about what is going wrong with your processes. 

With digital process mining, you're automating traditional process analysis, providing a more objective view of what's actually happening in your organization. So, you don't have to take a best-guess approach. You can actually see the root cause of process problems instead. Otherwise, it’s like asking a group of people to describe a process. Everybody’s going to have a different response.


Because everybody has a different interpretation of what they’re seeing.


Yes, and there can be serious arguments about that, about how a process is being executed or how it should be executed. But it's much better to have a factual basis that everyone can agree on. That’s what process mining brings to the table.

PS: Watch this space for the final episode of this two-part interview with process mining expert Karina Buschsieweke. For a deeper dive into process mining and the future of low-code automation, check out this on-demand video: The Path from Knowing to Doing: Process Mining + Low-Code Automation.