Process Mining and the BPTrends Methodology

Process mining

Process Mining refers to the use of computer algorithms to analyze data in order to help understand that nature of business processes.

In essence, the computer algorithm looks at database inputs and outputs from a given application or set of applications and determines the overall pattern of activities and the flow of information between activities.  (Process Mining is a specialization of Data Mining.)

To use process mining, one needs a process that is already automated, a database that contains data about the historical activity of the automated process, and a software tool that can analyze how the process interacts with the database and display the results of the analysis.

Given the constraints, Process Mining is not very useful for high level business processes, processes with lots of human activities and processes that have not been automated.  No one would normally think of using Process Mining to analyze a value chain or even a large subprocess, like Selling or Software Development.  On the other hand, one can use Process Mining on subprocesses like an Auto Assembly, where the production line is largely automated and data is captured at each step in the assembly.  Similarly, one can use Process Mining on mid to small scale process that is automated with workflow software or an ERP application. 

Increasingly, Process Mining capabilities (algorithms) will be built into the more sophisticated BPMS platforms.  In the meantime, there are several software tools on the market designed to support Process Mining.

The BPTrends methodology is designed to provide users with a comprehensive overview of all of the major approaches to business process analysis and redesign – and to provide a systematic approach to determining when to use what technique.  At the same time, given time constraints, in our first week of courses, we do not have time to go into most of the techniques in any detail. 

Thus, BPTrends tries to teach where the analysis of business rules can be useful, but do not provide any depth in the actual analysis of business rules.  Similarly, we stress that analysts and designers should use BPMS software tools, but do not provide any detailed introduction to the actual use of any specific BPMS tool.  We mention that BPMS tools often include support for business rules and for process mining. 

Students should leave a week of BPTrends training with an awareness of the term “process mining” and knowledge of the use of the technology.  If they want to learn more, they should do follow-on reading or take an advanced course that provides hands-on training in the technology.

Paul Harmon
Founder and chief methodologist at BPTrends Associates
September 2016

Notes

  1. There are articles on Process Mining on the www.bptrends.com website.  Use the search function
  2. The best overall site on the current state of Process Mining is IEEE’s CIS Task force on Process Mining.  This site includes a process mining manifesto that several of us joined in creating: http://www.win.tue.nl/ieeetfpm/doku.php?id=shared:process_mining_manifesto
  3. The leading authority on Process Mining is the Dutch professor, Wil van der Aalst (at Eindhoven Uni of Technology in the Netherlands.) who wrote Process Mining.  Several of his students are involved in creating process mining tools.  (e.g.  www.celonis.com)
  4. IBM and Fujitsu are also heavily invested in Process Mining research and offer software tools and IBM has process mining capabilities built into their BPMS platform.
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