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7 habits to shorten the time-to-value in process mining

Process mining helps businesses find areas of improvement in their processes. However, the success of process mining depends on how fast the insights can be turned into value. Let me show you 7 habits with which you can shorten the time-to-value in your process mining project.

By Rafael Accorsi

As business processes become ever more complex and entangled, it can be hard to keep an overview: Where are the bottlenecks in our production? How do we best allocate our resources? What is the way to scale with full productivity?

In order to answer such questions, businesses need to understand exactly how their processes work and where the pain points lie. One way to gain these insights is process mining.

Process mining software uses algorithms and machine learning to help businesses capture information from enterprise transaction systems. It creates so-called “event logs” which show how computer-mediated work is done; in particular, who does it, how long it takes, and how the different workways deviate from each other. These insights can be used to identify potential areas of process improvement – which in turn can lead to lower costs, increased revenue or reduced energy consumption.

So far so good – but how, you might ask, do I know whether the improvement of processes turns into real business value?

Time-to-insight and time-to-value

The two key dimensions to measure the success of process mining are time-to-insight (TTI) and time-to-value (TTV).

The time-to-insight measures the time it takes you to understand something in the process. Gaining such an insight – knowing where a process can be improved and how – is the first step. However, this does not yet generate any real value for the business, i.e., save money or increase sales.

What comes into play here is the second key dimension: the time-to-value shows how long it takes for the business to realize value from the process improvement it implemented, or in other words: to make the improvement tangible and measurable.

Having supervised process mining projects for several years now, I have observed that in most instances, the time-to-insight tremendously improves over time: businesses gain insights much faster in a very short time. The time-to-value, however, progresses at a much slower rate.

Therefore, I have worked out 7 habits that, if adhered to, will help you turn the insights you gain through process mining into business value more quickly.


By turning it user-centered visualizations: Find out how in this article.

By drawing fast and scalable insights from it with DataOps: Learn more here.

By using it to cut expenses: Here is how that works in a banking context.

How to shorten the time-to-value

Habit 1: Identify broad areas of concern.
One of the most difficult questions in process mining is where to start and how to find the most promising processes (so-called value cases) to work on. My top tips for this are:

  • Don’t be too selective at the beginning but try to identify broad areas of concern. Ask, for example: how is the order management process doing?
  • Focus, on the one hand, on processes in isolation and, on the other hand, on the interplay of processes. Resuming the example, consider not only the sales order creation on, e.g., SAP, but also the lead management process on, e.g., SalesForce.
  • Challenge areas with typical value pockets, such as procurement, finance and supply-chain, especially if they tell you “my processes are running fine”.
  • If, on the contrary, you get delivered a huge number of cases, be critical – you want few good, focused value cases rather than as many as possible.
  • While doing this, make sure you document the value cases, processes and areas with a standard template, and include user groups that could potentially profit from the case.

Habit 2: State a clear value case.
Most of us are used to thinking in “use cases”, so you might wonder, what is a “value case”?

A use case is defined by an operational focus, KPIs to be measured and roles who use these KPIs. It usually has no clear scope and multiple sub use cases. It is analytics- rather than solution-oriented.

In contrast, a value case focuses on the benefit and outcome. Its KPIs are justified by which insights deliver to the specific execution gap. It provides a clearly stated scope and value (ROI) as well as drill downs and potential solutions.

By thinking of a value case rather than of a use case, you put value at the center of what you are doing – which makes sense, as that is what you want to achieve. Put simply, this means: don’t leave your case at the state of an abstract idea but formulate a specific statement as goal. The value case is usually captured in a so-called value case canvas. You can see an example structure of a value case canvas depicted in Figure 1:

Figure 1: Example structure of a value case canvas.


Habit 3: Start with a small but promising value case.
Often, people begin by looking for cases where they can easily generate a lot of value. However, instead of the amount of value, the most important thing for a first case is that it delivers its value fast.

If you start with a case that returns a certain value fast, even if it is not much, people see that it actually benefits the company. If, on the contrary, your time to generate value is too long, it will leave them with a bad feeling. Thus, select “sure shot” value cases which might deliver less value in the short run, but exhibit low realization complexity.

Such cases produce a positive process mining experience, breed the right expectations in the technology and strengthen a “can-do” mindset. Moreover, when embedded in a journey and with successive drill-downs, these cases still deliver lots of value in the long run.

Habit 4: Commitment to realize and maintain.
After having identified and captured your process mining value case, you need to commit to running the process mining value chain end-to-end. The first step here is to ensure the support of the business, and by that, I mean a formal sign-off. Make sure to get that already in the beginning of your case.

Also, be inclusive and involve tech, business and process improvement stakeholders. Especially important to keep in the loop are financial controllers: get on the same page with them and verify your calculations as to value, as these are handled differently in every organization.

A process mining value-chain consists of different phases: the scoping phase (identification and prioritization of value cases), the analysis phase (generation of insights), the value realization phase (deployment of improvements) and the refinement & operations phase (process mining is used to ensure that the value is sustainably generated). In order to make your process mining value chain as sustainable as possible, consider the following:

  • Instead of cultivating “one-offs”, focus on cases which build up an improvement journey.
  • Watch out for sudden changes in strategic priorities (which could lead to abandoned cases).
  • Build upon existing solutions/approaches.
  • Define mitigation actions for potential value realization risks/gaps.

Habit 5: Go agile.
In process mining – as in many other contexts – it is a good idea to adopt an agile approach. Besides structure and time-boxing, this provides the flexibility to quickly move on to another value case, if the current one does not deliver the expected value.

The mind-set is: It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to do things wrong. If you see something is not working, you can change and thus improve it. If you don’t allow this to happen, you are stuck and the time to value increases.

Habit 6: Work on the technical basis.
The worst thing that can happen when you are in the middle of process mining, is that a missing technical component hinders you from realizing value. For example, you identify an improvement opportunity that could be quickly addressed with an action flow. However, the technical basis to deploy the action flow is missing and its implementation would require a lengthy change management process to be realized (e.g., a connection to the ERP system).

Thanks to the value canvas, you know from the beginning what you might need. So, make sure in advance or during the insight-gaining phase that you have the necessary technical basis to avoid losing valuable time in the middle of the case. If the solution builds on machine learning, reserve enough time to test, validate and refine the model before the value realization journey.

Habit 7: Get the right KPIs right.
In any project, you need to be prepared for when people ask you what value the project has already created. If you go into this question unprepared, you will necessarily experience a setback.

To quantify the value you generate with process mining, try to combine operational KPIs with dynamic KPIs tailored for a specific value journey (e.g., the impact of open orders on working capital). While dynamic or composite KPIs might be more complex to measure, they clearly link a change in the process to the value created by it (e.g., by diminishing the number of open orders by 2% we improve WC by 14%).

To define meaningful KPIs for your process mining value case, you can go through the following questions. They build the backbone of a value case canvas and drive the value journey:

  • What is the overall strategic vision of the value case (e.g., achieve 5x revenue uplift by simplifying operations)?
  • What are the tangible goals linked to the strategic vision of the company?
  • What key inputs and actions correspond to each tangible goal?
  • What are the possible composite KPIs/metrics that measure each key action?
  • What is the prioritized portfolio of metrics on which will be reported, and which is the value associated with these metrics (improvement potential)?

Key takeaways

By adhering to the 7 habits presented in this article, you can shorten the time-to-value in your process mining project.

To be more precise, my observations – shared with Timo Peters, Head of Process Insights & Value at Bayer – confirm that applying these habits leads to:

  • A decrease of the time to value by 30 to 40 %.
  • A mindset shift – from “one-off”-projects to sustainable value generation.
  • Solid, structured value case funnel construction and management tackling different business areas.
  • Easier tracking of value and early detection of dead-ends.
  • Increased awareness on the KPIs measured and their business impact.
  • A broader set of stakeholders starting to use and recognize process mining as a key to process improvement.

Process mining delivers fact-based insights on where to improve your business’ processes. This is key to successful data-led transformations which put “value” at the center of the approach. The aforementioned 7 habits are tools to quickly unlock and measurably report on productivity gain. Curious? Try it out.

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