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Process mining reinvented - why a full end-to-end map of your business is needed

Vaishnavi Sashikanth Profile picture for user Vaishnavi Sashikanth February 6, 2023
Execution management software took a huge step forward recently with the commercial introduction of object-centric process mining. Vaishnavi Sashikanth of Celonis explains how this technology and the company’s new Process Sphere™ provide a fuller, more holistic and more comprehensive view of business operations.

Top view of colorful gears. Corporate work and modern business process concept © 9dream studio - Shutterstock
(© 9dream studio - Shutterstock)

It’s easy to go about our daily routines and not think about the processes that run much of our lives. We don’t see the complex web of systems that lets us travel to see friends and family, puts food on our tables or helps us buy those important holiday gifts and everyday essentials. We don’t see them, until something goes wrong.

When there’s a canceled flight, a shortage of a staple item at the grocery store or a missing package, we see them then. We wonder, “What went wrong?” And the professionals tasked with managing these processes ask, “How can we keep this from happening again?”

Unfortunately, even the best tools used to analyze and optimize processes struggle to accurately model modern end-to-end business operations. For process mining to reach its full potential and drive generational business transformation, we must overcome this technical challenge. We must reinvent process mining.

Reinventing the core of process mining with OCPM

A little over two decades ago, the ‘Godfather of Process Mining’ Professor Wil van der Aalst coined the term “process mining.” Since then, classic process mining has been based on extracting event data from business information systems (ERP, CRM, SCM and the like), storing those data in event logs and using the logs to model how work flows through a single process. Once an accurate process model is created, an Execution Management System™ (EMS), which combines process mining, data analytics and automation technology, can identify, recommend and even implement fixes for hidden process inefficiencies.

The traditional process mining approach works extremely well for analyzing and optimizing a single process in isolation, such as accounts payable, accounts receivable or procurement. Yet, modern business processes are highly interconnected.

For example, say you placed a single online order for four different holiday gifts. One of the gifts is in stock, but the other three are out of stock and need to be produced. The in-stock gift is pulled from the warehouse and shipped immediately. For the three out-of-stock gifts, a production order is created for each one and they are sent later in a separate shipment.

The process, which started with your single online order, ultimately involved multiple objects–a sales order, four sales order items (i.e., the gifts), three production orders (i.e., the out-of-stock gifts), two separate shipments and an invoice. Additionally, your purchase flowed through the retailer’s order management process as well as their inventory management, procurement, supply chain and production processes. Classical process mining software can’t capture the complex relationships between these multiple objects and interconnected processes. That’s why it’s time to reinvent process mining with a new approach called object-centric process mining (OCPM).

Object-centric process mining overcomes the limitations of traditional process mining by capturing the relationships between objects. Considering the example above, OCPM can analyze and visualize the relationships between all the objects involved in your gift purchase (i.e., the sales order, sales order items, production orders, shipments and invoice). With an execution management system built on OCPM technology, the retailer can see if production problems are affecting order fulfillment and proactively take action to resolve potential bottlenecks.

Professor van der Aalst, who in addition to creating process mining is also chief scientist at Celonis, describes object-centric process mining as the biggest development of process mining in many years.

At Celonis, we describe going from traditional process mining to object-centric process mining as going from an X-ray to an MRI, from a two-dimensional representation of your processes to a three-dimensional perspective on your business.

MOL Group – driving business value with Process Sphere

MOL Group, an international oil and gas company with operations in 30 countries and 25,000 employees, started using Celonis EMS with their purchase-to-pay and maintenance processes. The company needed a tool to help them optimize the planned maintenance shutdowns for their factories and refineries. Celonis Process Sphere, a new capability of the Celonis EMS built on object-centric process mining, was the answer.

When offered the chance to use the new technology, “We jumped on it,” said András Katkó, Head of Group IT Back Office at MOL Group, in a video presented during the Celosphere keynote.

Each maintenance shutdown is an incredibly complex operation that involves multiple service providers, suppliers and systems. It’s extremely important to complete shutdowns on time, as a delay could negatively affect the global energy market, the company’s reputation and its bottom line. They are often planned a full year in advance.

Process Sphere lets Katkó and his team see a map of the entire shutdown operation from start to finish, while also being able to drill down on a single process, see where different processes meet and if they are interacting with each other correctly. Katkó said at the time:

Celonis Process Sphere has proven valuable to our organization as it shows an entire process at a glance, while also presenting the handshakes that go between different processes. 

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