Process Mining, Low-code, and the Future of Innovation, Part 2

Roland Alston, Thought Leadership Program Leader
October 14, 2021

Process mining is on fire—a sizzling hot market that’s expected to grow from $185.3 million in 2018 to 1.4 trillion by 2023, with Europe accounting for the largest share of the growth according to the analyst firm MarketsandMarkets. But more than that, the trifecta of Process Mining + Workflow + Automation can unlock massive customer value for any company trying to compete and win in the age of hyperautomation.

(For the record, process mining allows businesses to automatically discover and optimize critical business processes before automating them.)

But that doesn’t mean you should double down on process mining, robotic process automation or any other kind of stand-alone software. Much better, say experts, to take an integrated approach and invest in a unified solution that gives you the capability to discover, design, and automate critical business processes on a single platform.  

Which sounds like a cue to roll tape on the final episode of this two-part 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. If you missed part one of the interview, catch it here

Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Appian:

You’ve talked about the importance of understanding data and processes before automating them, which makes perfect sense. But based on your experience, what are the critical success factors for getting the most out of implementing a process mining strategy?

Karina:

I think it's interesting to differentiate between horizontal and vertical processes. You could talk about industries. But you can also look at financial processes that every company has—like order to cash—to find processes that can really benefit from automation. It could involve how your organization checks for and monitors issues related to compliance or customer satisfaction. 

Those processes are usually good starting points because they are more standardized across organizations and faster to implement. But you also have vertical processes that are more industry specific, and they are oftentimes a lot more complex too.

For example, it could be a very complex billing process in utilities or healthcare, or a manufacturing process where you have many factors coming together, or where a mistake in a manual process could cause serious problems for customers and your organization. In these cases, the implementation might require more effort but the benefits of getting transparent insights into those core value creating processes can also be higher.  

Appian:

So, which use cases offer the biggest opportunities for organizations to optimize their business processes?

Karina:

So, the biggest opportunities are with value-creating processes that involve complex IT systems, especially in finance, manufacturing, and healthcare. 

We’ve worked with healthcare clients to optimize emergency room operations. Process mining can make a big difference for patients in situations where seconds matter, and where process optimization can determine whether someone will survive or not.

Appian:

Let’s switch gears and talk about the impact of COVID-19 on business automation, and what that means for the evolution of process mining in the decade ahead.

Karina:

That’s a really interesting question, because I think that the natural tendency is for organizations to avoid change wherever possible. Many companies don't really think about the threats that might be coming in the future. But I think a situation like COVID puts you in a different mindset. I think it is also driving a willingness to change, and to think about how we can get better and be more competitive in the future.

Appian:

I want to come back to something you mentioned earlier. You talked about how process mining helps organizations uncover problems in their business processes. Do you see rooting out problems as the biggest driver of process mining adoption?

Karina:

Yes. So, that's one aspect of it. In the very early days, we were showcasing our technology at a Six Sigma process improvement conference in Germany. And one of the conference attendees was really excited about our technology. He said “I work at a large automotive supplier in Germany. And if we have a problem in our manufacturing site, I just go there and look, and figure out what the problem is. Process mining is a nice technology. I wish you the best, but I know what I'm doing.”

But a couple of months later, I got a call from this person, inviting us to come out to his company’s site to help them analyze a business process problem.  He said: “We've got an issue, but I can’t see anything. How about you come out and help us analyze the problem.” Which I think highlights the value of process mining. Process mining is great technology for pinpointing where things are going wrong with your processes. I think it’s game-changing technology for process improvement experts.

Appian:

But what about the flip side of that? Based on your experience, what are the biggest mistakes companies make when implementing process mining strategies, and what's the secret to avoiding them?

Karina:

I think first and foremost you have to think strategically about process mining. So, proof of concept should be part of the data. Big picture, if we’re talking about digitization, we’re talking about process optimization. It's basically the same thing, or different sides of the same coin.

So, I think if you want to implement process mining, you also need to consider your strategy for process improvement and operational excellence in general. And I think you should really move this to the top of the agenda and position your company as an organization that wants to continuously improve its processes.

I think that's the first step—setting the scene for optimization. And then, of course, start small. Don’t try to implement a process mining strategy across the entire organization at once. For some processes, implementation might be more complex. So, it's very important to choose a small use- case that you can implement fast and show results within a couple of weeks. That gives you transparency, a small lighthouse project that can serve as a guide for other departments to follow.

Appian:

Talk about the acquisition of Lana Labs by Appian from the standpoint of the synergies that came out of the acquisition. Talk about the convergence of process mining and low-code automation and how you see companies benefiting from that.

Karina:

At Lana, our mission was to enable people, machines, and organizations to get better every day. But we wanted to do this in an integrated solution where you can not only show a customer what is going wrong, but also offer solutions to actually make things better. 

And this is the synergy represented by Lana and Appian. We are better positioned to deliver on the continuous improvement promise that we’ve always wanted to make to our customers. And now it's becoming a reality.

Appian:

In wrapping up, I want to touch on the topic of sustainability, something that appears to be catching on with many tech companies lately. Last summer, you participated in a panel discussion on digital sustainability, and I wonder what connections you see between sustainability and process mining.

Karina:

I think sustainability has a lot to do with efficiency. It’s not only about Goodwill and doing the right thing. It’s also about the core of a business. You want to be as efficient as possible for business purposes. And also, for environmental purposes. If you are using less resources, your environmental impact is lower.

And I think once we put a price tag on environmental impacts, you will immediately see the benefits of process mining from a sustainability standpoint. It will make it easier for organizations to prove they’re doing everything possible to minimize harm to the environment. We need more data and more transparency in this regard too. 

Maybe in the future, there will be environmentally-friendly companies and companies that are the opposite of that. And maybe process mining will help us separate winners from losers.

PS: 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.