Point of View

Confused by process mining vs. discovery? Consider an AND approach with process intelligence

August 28, 2020

Are you in the market for a process mining product? Or looking to speed up process automation through a process discovery tool? Or trying to build more intelligence and analysis around your BPM tools? Congrats, you’re now wading in the rapidly emerging (and already confusing) marketplace for all things HFS calls “process intelligence.” With its many overlaps, differences, and complementary capabilities, you should carefully evaluate options before pulling the trigger on a process intelligence project.

Mining vs. discovery vs. process intelligence: What’s in a name?

As we outlined in our POV earlier this year, the process mining industry has grown leaps and bounds in the last few years. Enterprises using open source tools like Disco or buying into products such as Celonis, Minit, and QPR are essentially trying to get more data and insights out of their core enterprise application transaction logs for tasks such as streamlining process flows by identifying and removing obstacles, tracking ERP data migration, and monitoring process excellence.


Process discovery tools have also evolved in the last decade by changing their approach to gathering enterprise process data. Tools like Epiplex and Kryon’s discovery tool have, for several years, helped their clients record and analyze desktop-level activity on business applications instead of sifting through transaction logs for information. Using computer vision, many of these tools can recognize, for example, that an employee is working on data entry tasks using Excel and then entering orders into a web-based SAP interface. A process discovery tool captures this activity, analyzes it to create knowledge objects, and presents it back to users to show how event data ultimately builds up to executing a process. The key use cases we have seen for using discovery tools include identifying repetitive or costly manual activities as strong candidates for automation and using insights for training and development.


Process mining included mining and discovery tools

HFS has seen the terminologies for this market blur almost as quickly as they emerge. Some people mean process mining tools when they say “mining,” and some started to use “mining” as an umbrella term to include both mining and discovery tools (we were originally in this camp). Others, including some discovery vendors, started pitting themselves against mining tools and creating a different category.


Process discovery was a mining term, but is now coming to represent desktop agents

To fuel even more confusion, the term “process discovery” pre-existed within process mining techniques. It referred to the event log-driven discovery of business processes to create process maps. With how the market has adapted “process discovery” today, however, we are now associating the term with the desktop agent approach of capturing user activity and applying intelligent OCR and computer vision to interpret it.


Exhibit 1: Process intelligence technologies can tap into the power of AND



Source: HFS Research, 2020


Process intelligence is how HFS references technology that provides process insight and intelligence

At HFS, we’ve started using “process intelligence” as the umbrella term that refers to the multiple ways that enterprises can apply emerging technologies to glean better insights and intelligence out of their applications and business processes and then apply them to a variety of use cases.

Discrete deployments will get the job done, but you may need complementary process intelligence capabilities to fully address process debt

Whether you’re a buyer, vendor, or services firm using process discovery and mining technologies, you’ve probably noticed how quickly process intelligence technologies have infiltrated the mainstream’s bucket list of have-to-have enterprise technologies. There have been many starting points for client enterprises, either building on existing data and analytics capabilities, intelligent automation practices, process excellence teams, or IT organizations engaged in systems migration. Each use case will have its best-suited tool. For example, if you’re trying to analyze inter-departmental process flows, you’re probably better off with a wider-scale deployment of a process mining tool. And if you’re embedded in an RPA COE and want to pre-estimate the dollar-value ROI impact of your automation efforts, perhaps you’d be better off with a dipstick analysis of tasks using a discovery tool that has ROI calculating functionalities.


However, the potential that process intelligence technologies offer is at a much higher and more holistic level: the opportunity to fully observe and fix the end-to-end process debt your organization has built up. You may find that beyond these piecemeal implementations of mining or discovery tools, there is value in expanding the use cases or, in some situations, combining the outputs of mining and discovery tools to build and monitor a more comprehensive process picture. If you need any indications of synergy between these tools, just take a look at the vendor landscape:

  1. Organic investment: Process mining market leader Celonis has invested in both mining and discovery capabilities with the launch of its “task mining” suite (yet another term that refers to desktop-based user interaction data).
  2. Partnerships: Partnering between discovery and mining vendors is already at play. Signavio has teamed up with FortressIQ and Kryon has tied up with SoftwareAG to pull different data feeds into their analyses.
  3. Services ecosystem: Global system integrators, business process services providers, and consulting firms are partnering with discovery and mining vendors to provide a comprehensive solution to their clients; for example, PwC is going to market with a “process intelligence” moniker.


The Bottom Line: Let’s not limit the possibilities with a reductive approach to mining vs. discovery. “Process intelligence” gets at the heart of the unifying outcome that enterprises are actually seeking.


HFS offers this advice to vendors: It doesn’t benefit you to disparage competitors or try to pit mining against discovery in the battle for the “superior” technology. There’s certainly enough room for everyone in the increasingly data-fueled enterprise market!

Ultimately this is about enterprises gaining process intelligence and insights; so, to the buyers, we say: Challenge your teams, technology, and service partners to evaluate a broader set of process intelligence technologies to bring what is most relevant to address your particular needs.




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