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Process mining reinvented - why desktop visibility is crucial

Vaishnavi Sashikanth Profile picture for user Vaishnavi Sashikanth May 9, 2023
Understanding how work flows across your information systems and your desktop apps is critical to improving workforce productivity and the employee experience, says Vaishnavi Sashikanth, Chief Engineering Officer at Celonis.

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Business information systems (ERP, CRM, SCM, etc.) form the heart of today’s enterprise technology stack. But these systems were designed to complete transactions not to understand how an organization operates. And they are typically deployed with specific customization – so employees often augment what they do in these systems with desktop productivity tools, such as spreadsheets and email. Process mining unravels process structure and trajectory for activities captured by business information systems. A sister discipline, task mining, is figuring out repetitive patterns found in the activities performed outside of the process systems in desktop or other productivity tools.

In earlier articles, I wrote about how process mining is being reinvented to deliver an end-to-end map of your business accelerated by a consumer-grade user experience. In this piece, I’ll explain how combining process mining and task mining can help you better understand work flows through your organization and identify opportunities to improve workforce experience and productivity.

End-to-end process improvement requires desktop visibility

According to Everest Group’s 2022, Task Mining Playbook, office productivity software (Microsoft Excel, Outlook, Word, etc.) accounted for 80% of the top 5 most-used applications. Additionally, employees spent ~1.5x more time using these apps than all other enterprise applications, like ERP, CRM and SCM. Everest also found that over 60% of people’s work day was spent across these productivity apps, which was 30% higher than CIOs expected.

As my colleague Bill Detwiler wrote, the fact that process tasks happen on the desktop creates three significant problems for organizations.

First, if you aren’t analyzing work performed on the desktop, you won’t have end-to-end visibility of your business operations. You also won’t know if your workforce is spending time on frustrating tasks like jumping between apps or constantly copying and pasting information, which can reduce productivity, negatively impact the overall employee experience and has the potential to introduce costly errors.

Second, as business functions grow in size and scope, traditional methods such as in-person shadowing sessions or data sampling of user activities, struggle to capture a coherent picture of user work patterns with business information systems. Other useful analyses such as understanding how different teams compare or where departmental silos exist is not possible.

Third, one-off efforts to analyze workforce behavior don’t provide continuous productivity or experience improvement. This is particularly important today as global trends, such as the rise of remote work due to COVID-19 or the race to capture value due to macroeconomic headwinds, has caused major changes in workforce behavior.

Combining system activities from ERP, CRM, and similar systems together with desktop activities of the users working with those systems enables organizations to get a holistic understanding of user productivity and a richer understanding of business processes at every interaction point with users.

Reinventing process mining with best-in-class task mining

A task mining solution that gives you full workforce visibility, captures the employee experience and allows you to understand changing behaviors is key to improving workforce productivity. And, it needs to accomplish all these objectives at scale. We call this Celonis Workforce Productivity (powered by Task Mining).

Workforce Productivity is designed to capture how users spend time between applications and show you what is happening within teams at scale. It allows you to understand and compare the challenges teams face and decrease time spent on non-value-adding tasks. Lastly, it lets you see how workforce behaviors are shifting and how process changes influence execution. Critically, it does all this while maintaining user privacy and transparency by allowing the customization of the data captured, pseudonymization of user names, data redaction of sensitive information, data encryption, granular access rights, application limits and user notification of when and what data is being collected.

In short, we built Workforce Productivity to enable you to find and scale repetitive work patterns that burdens your workforce.

For example, consider a global shared services team with 1,000 people. This team provides centralized finance functions, primarily invoice processing. The team lead has realized that the backlog is growing because invoice processing has gotten slow. The team is not meeting their goals, which is frustrating for team members and causing lower engagement.

In an effort to understand their frustration, the team lead has spoken with several team members, but due to the team’s size, they weren’t able to pinpoint or quantify the issue. To uncover the root cause of the slowdown, identify corrective action, increase productivity and improve employee satisfaction, the lead asks a process analyst to implement Celonis Workforce Productivity.

The analyst can now collect data directly from the team’s Windows desktops using the Workforce Productivity Task Mining client. The data shows how much time the team spends within specific apps, such as the company’s ERP system, email, office productivity apps, etc. They can also drill down into the team’s usage of each app and determine how they are using it. For example, the analyst sees that for each purchase order an Excel spreadsheet is created. Digging further, the analyst discovers that team members are copying data from Excel into the ERP system to update vendor information.

Upon learning these findings, the team lead relates the analyst’s discovery to complaints they’ve received about inaccurate vendor information in the Master Data. They are also able to quantify the problem’s severity because the system shows the amount of time wasted by copying and pasting information to correct the bad data.

Now that they know the root cause of the slow invoice processing, the team lead can use the Celonis Execution Management System (EMS) and its Action Flows automation capability to automatically detect wrong Master Data, update the underlying ERP system and notify the relevant people. In short, the team lead and analyst have used best-in-class task mining to help their team be more productive and improved the team member experience by reducing the amount of time spent on a non-value-adding and frustrating task.

Market leaders are harnessing the power of desktop process analysis

The above scenario is a theoretical example, but industry-leading companies are using task mining to find and capture value in the real world.

BP, the global energy company, implemented Celonis Task Mining as part of a co-innovation partnership to break down time-consuming tasks, such as invoice processing. Claire Hourigan, Head of Business Process Management and the Process Mining Center of Excellence at BP, said: 

With Celonis we can see for example that invoice processing takes us an average of 27 minutes. But what I’m really interested in, is what actually goes into that 27 minutes. What were the manual hops out of SAP and into a spreadsheet or website to get the information needed to post that invoice. 

Task Mining has filled in all of those manual gaps for us. It’s helped to really push a big funnel of innovation and automation into our team.

Likewise, a multi-billion dollar telecommunications company saved over €2M in a single year using Celonis Task Mining. The company implemented task mining within their call center, a team of over 2,000 people, to analyze the different systems used to handle customer overpayment claims. They were able to identify which system was most accurate in determining overpayment amounts and therefore avoid repaying customers more than was owed.

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