Understanding the Difference Between Business Process Management and Process Mining

Understanding the Difference Between Business Process Management and Process Mining

In an attempt to bring you the best content within the Business Process Management (BPM) tech space, Solutions Review editors search the web far and wide on a daily basis for insights that can have a real impact and help move the needle.

In this light, we recently spoke with Alexander Rinke, CEO and co-founder of Celonis about Process Mining and Business Process Management (BPM) software, what they have in common and how they’re different. Celonis is a world leader in process mining solutions and combines process mining with machine learning and artificial intelligence to achieve highly intelligent and fully automated insights.

SR: What does Process Mining have to do with BPM and/or BPM software? 

AR: The first wave of BPM software was largely document-focused, built to circulate scanned documentation between workers responsible for carrying out data entry and other manual activities. BPM software originally aimed to eliminate paper document circulation between relevant parties, and to digitize processes. Within a BPM suite, you could digitally map out how you wanted your processes to work, and monitor the steps that your staff were taking to perform the process activities – albeit with very little insight into deviations from the process design. That’s generally where the functionality of BPM software stops, and for larger enterprises, a modern-day ERP system can usually encompass all of the functionality of a BPM suite.
With Process Mining we’re doing something entirely new, with a radically different approach to process optimization. Whereas an enterprise could use a BPM suite to design how a process should function, a Process Mining solution sits on top of any IT system (ERP, ITSM, CRM, etc.) and immediately tells you how processes actually are functioning.
Think of a bad process as an injured patient in a hospital; BPM software would be like the operating table, while Process Mining is like an MRI machine that the physician would use to diagnose the issue. You probably wouldn’t want a doctor to operate without first seeing and understanding your ailments, and processes should be treated the same way.

SR: Is Process Mining a component of BPM software? If so, how? If not, why?

AR: No, Process Mining is not a component of BPM software. The applications and benefits of each category are actually quite different. BPM and workflow management tools were built starting in the 1970s-1980s, while Process Mining is a category of big-data analytics technology that really only got its start in 2011. The former is concerned with designing and managing operational procedures, while the latter is focused on analyzing, optimizing, and redesigning organizational operations by using data that already exists within every IT system.

SR: What are the similarities / differences between BPM software and Process Mining tools?

AR: BPM software utilizes a traditional workflow approach to process design, and is typically used to build static process maps to create operational flows. You could use BPM tools to design a process, but there is no exploratory capability to a BPM tool, so you’ve got no way of uncovering hidden process inefficiencies, bottlenecks, or dangerous deviations from the process design.

Process Mining, on the other hand, acts like an MRI for your IT-driven business processes. Bottlenecks, non-conformance, and process deviations are laid bare instantly, and the most advanced Process Mining solutions have even incorporated machine learning algorithms to make prescriptive recommendations for process improvement. These advanced analytics solutions build on prior use cases to pinpoint the best opportunities for process improvement, and to make suggestions about which actions to take, acting as automated business consultants.

SR: What role does Process Mining play in Digital Transformation?

AR: Most business owners understand how their processes should be functioning, in theory, but they usually lack the requisite transparency to see what’s really going on, and this is where Process Mining comes into play. The solution leverages universally available IT log-data as a “single source of truth,” and visually reconstructs real-time process flows in all variations. Process Mining software can identify inefficiencies like delays and rework within a process, and can zoom in on a granular level to single out root causes, providing decision makers the honest insights required to optimize processes to be faster and run leaner.

SR: Does Process Mining serve as a step in a company’s BPM initiatives?

AR: Process Mining offers a totally new approach to improving and optimizing business processes, and the capability expands beyond traditional BPM initiatives. Instead of focusing strictly on process management, Process Mining offers a transparent, holistic view of all activities taking place within an organization, and allows for deeper analysis of those activities.

What about Robotic Process Automation? (In comparison to BPM software)

AR: RPA uses software or cognitive robots to replace human manual labor, and the objective of an RPA deployment is usually to automate the repetitive tasks within a process, freeing up human workers to focus their superior cognitive capabilities on creative thinking and strategic priorities. Whereas RPA is a category of technology designed to replicate the tedious work that typically burdens a human employee, BPM software facilitates an approach to creating a process workflow.

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Elizabeth Quirk
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