A reference process is a process that represents a desired ideal state. It represents how a process should run. However, this ideal “target sequence” can deviate from the actual process. In process mining, the actual process is therefore often compared with the reference process. This target/actual comparison is also called conformance checking.
How can the reference process deviate from the actual process?
Since the reference process is often created as part of the process documentation and is not continuously adapted, it is possible that the process may change when implemented in reality. If the existing process model is not updated, the two processes may differ from each other. The deviations can affect the process structure or the performance of the process.
Deviations in the process structure affect the documented process flow. For example, process steps can be skipped or executed repeatedly. It is also conceivable for process loops to occur in the actual process that are not documented in the reference process model.
Whether you can determine deviations in performance depends on whether the process performance is also recorded in the process documentation. If it is, these values can be compared and examined for deviations. Deviations in process performance can occur in the processing times, wait times, or the entire cycle time. If there are deviations in the processing or wait time, the total cycle time also deviates, since the cycle time is the sum of the different partial times (processing time, idle time, transport time, wait time).
In addition, individual process steps might also be executed by other employees or in non-documented departments. This results in structural process deviations. Whether these deviations can be determined depends on the documented processes and the performance deviations. In process mining, the deviations depend on the available data.