Q&A | May 4, 2023
Digital process mining helps companies work faster and better than ever before
Organizations have long struggled to get a complete picture of their business processes. Historically, gathering this information was extensive and complex, often performed manually, prone to human bias, and frequently out of date by the time it was completed.
Digital process mining upends all that by giving companies a real-time view into how work gets done. When paired with artificial intelligence (AI), it can also offer suggestions for how to improve these processes.
According to Chris Bedi, chief digital information officer at ServiceNow, process mining helps companies unlock previously unattainable levels of efficiency. It promises to transform the IT function, turning chief information officers into chief optimization officers.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
It’s the act of analyzing the digital trail left by any digitized process to glean insights on how the process is performing. For any process that's been digitized on any platform, digitization leaves a trail. And what we call process mining analyzes that trail of information to reverse engineer insights in terms of how that process is performing. The speed, the effectiveness, perhaps regional differences, all these insights were typically really hard to analyze before. With process mining, it’s automated and on-going. Rather than a snapshot of a business process with backward-looking analysis, you get a live view into processes in action within a company.
Process mining is a complete paradigm shift for companies. Historically, if a management team wanted to understand the efficacy of any given operation in the company, it required a quarterly business review based on rearview-looking metrics and KPIs. That exercise takes a long time, maybe two or three quarters. Process mining gives you an instantaneous view that’s unbiased because there's no humans touching it. You can see how a process is really working. You can see hotspots, bottlenecks, and regional differences instantly for every single process across the world. That's a huge game-changer.
Every leader wants to drive efficiency and productivity. The first question is always where do we start? Process mining answers that question. It’s often said that you should never automate a bad process, but process mining turns that axiom on its head. Now you can automate the process as-is and have the tool tell you what needs to be reengineered.
When process mining is adopted at scale, it changes the role of the CIO from supporting optimization efforts to really driving them. The CIO organization suddenly has all the insights needed to drive operational improvement, speed, productivity, and efficiency across the whole company.
There are two answers to this question, one for today and another for tomorrow. Today, process mining is an accelerator to digital transformation because it answers the question of what do I need to transform first and what are the most valuable things to transform? Tomorrow's answer is a little bit different. Organizations that don’t have process mining underpinning all their operations, or at least their most critical ones, will risk falling behind those that do. The organizations that embrace it are going to quickly out-innovate and out-optimize those that don't.
I think in the future it’s going to be unthinkable to ask a human to figure out how an operation or process is performing and what needs to be done to improve it. Instead, our digital platforms will tell us how to optimize our companies and we'll get rid of all human bias. That might be a scary prospect for some, but if you fast forward and really pull on this thread, it’s where we’ll get to.