Automating Business Process Discovery

February 21, 2011 No Comments

I can remember the many hours of heartache trying to work out what actually happened when I was trying to document a business process for a customer. Invariably, Joe tells you one thing, Sarah tells you something completely different and “Old Bob” tells you that for “X” we do it that way. Trying to untangle these conflicting issues to understand the business rules and the process paths is hard work but vital.

So it was with a lot of enthusiasm (as well as scepticism) that I agreed to be briefed by Teemu Lehto, QPR Software’s Vice President of Business Development about their new product ProcessAnalyzer v2, described as an Automated Business Process Discovery (ABPD) tool.

So what is Automated Business Process Discovery? ABPD is an emerging field that discovers the business processes based on examining the electronic footprints the users leave in the IT assets supporting the process. This allows the business process to be automatically discovered and documented in near real time. Approaching the business process “bottoms-up” from the detailed facts of instances of the process provides a detailed depiction of the business process, complete with all the nuances of the process, complete with detailed statistical information on how often different variations of the process are executed, how long it takes, what data conditions give rise to process variations, and what variations there are between different users or groups.

Why should you be interested? Well, Jim Sinur, Gartner Research VP, listed the topic as number 2 in their The Top Ten BPM Technologies in March 2010. Gartner have seen ABPD as a means to overcoming the following issues in the way we currently model processes. It is a costly and time-consuming process that is vulnerable to human interpretation, where we come across inadequate business knowledge and a lack of objective validation techniques. Pretty hard on those of us who have made a living out of working through this morass to get to the heart of the matter—the actual process. To give Gartner their due they do recognise that ABPD will be an aid to making the process quicker and less costly and I would certainly agree with this. Forrester have also introduced ABPD as a new evaluation criterion in their Forrester Wave: Business Process Management Suites, Q3 2010. So the two senior industry analyst houses see this as an important area. From Bloor’s viewpoint we also see that ABPD is an important technique to aid in the discovery of processes which are already in operation.

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