Point of View

To automate processes effectively, you need to understand them. RPA software vendors double-down on process discovery

March 26, 2020

Automation Anywhere (AA) is the latest RPA software vendor to hop on the process discovery bus. On February 19, 2020, it announced Discovery Bot, which “discovers business processes—and with one-click creates bots to automate them,” meaning processes are discovered and passed through to its bot creator for bot building. A growing number of RPA software vendors are embracing process discovery, a sub-component of broader process mining, either through building capabilities or acquiring existing products.


We see independent software vendors (ISVs), both enterprise software vendors and robotic process automation (RPA) vendors, and systems integrators (SIs) shining a light on the mass of processes that comprise day to day operations. And we’re hoping that process improvement and reinvention is the goal, not just automating for automation’s sake.


Process mining (including process discovery tools) is one of 2020’s hot topics


A surge of activity is visible here in 2020, especially in conjunction with RPA. But process mining and discovery should be viewed in a bigger context. HFS’s 10 laws of RPA states:


“Treat RPA as a gateway to embrace process mining, machine learning, data ingestion, and advanced analytics to achieve real artificial intelligence for enterprises.”


Process debt accumulates across years of process and system changes. Organizations need help getting a clear description and depiction of their processes when they start thinking about how to automate them.


Process mining and process discovery help identify, depict, prioritize, and improve workflows based on systems logs or user desktop activity by creating process maps, finding bottlenecks, and recommending improvements, sometimes prescribing likely best candidates for automation. Ideally, the focus shifts into continuous process monitoring mode, measuring and identifying further improvement areas.


HFS’ primer on process mining outlines definitions and techniques. The underlying principle is that data is the foundation of a business process, and to improve and automate processes, you must first understand them. There is a growing group of pure-play software vendors such as minit, Skan, Signavio, and logpickr. Celonis, the group’s only unicorn, offers “process mining and process excellence software”; process improvement is what’s central, and process automation is one of the possible options to improve the user experience. Celonis recently lunged toward the big leagues by appointing Miguel Milano (ex Salesforce) as Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and co-owner. As depicted in Exhibit 1, this is good timing. HFS research shows that process mining tools are rising in importance.



Exhibit 1: Process mining surfs up the ranks of essential tools to support effective automation


Which technology has the highest priority as part of delivering your current automation goals? 



Source: HFS Research “State of Integrated Automation 2019”
Sample: Global 2000 Enterprise Leaders = 317



Many enterprises and organizations already investing in RPA have some sort of process discovery or mining capability, because they needed it to get anywhere. At recent HFS roundtables supported by Capgemini and Celonis, delegates highlighted strong adoption levels and the perceived importance of process mining.


Kryon and NICE were the quiet trailblazers back in 2018


RPA vendors are piling onto process discovery now, but the trend started a couple of years ago. Automation Anywhere’s claim of launching the world’s first integrated process discovery tool with Discovery Bot was immediately refuted. One of the first RPA movers on process discovery was Kryon, which launched its Process Discovery tool in June 2018. After AA’s announcement, it promptly launched a blog to set the record straight. Kryon’s “full cycle automation” uses process discovery to identify and map processes to provide a baseline for process execution, creating automated recommendations and integrating directly into automated bot builds.


Launched in 2018 and upgraded in 2019, NICE’s activity-based Automation Finder helps prioritize processes by observing patterns on users’ desktops (handling times, frequency, action types, and process volumes). Customers use this data to drive priority to different factors to make a hard case for investment based on efficiency gain, error reduction, or experience improvement.


AntWorks, WorkFusion, UiPath, Another Monday, Kofax, and Infosys’ Edgeverve all launched process discovery offerings in 2019


Process discovery was conspicuous in the Top 10 RPA software products 2020. Exhibit 2 shows the extent to which RPA vendors are already working with process discovery. And while not an RPA software vendor, ABBYY, the cognitive capture partner to many RPA companies, acquired TimelinePi in May 2019, ushering it into the arena, too.



Exhibit 2: Many RPA vendors launched process discovery capabilities in 2019




Source: HFS Research 2020



The Bottom Line: The route to “better” processes consists of multiple tools, and when those tools connect and integrate to each other, it helps. End-to-end platforms offer a one-stop-shop option, but best-of-breed remains an option too. Irrespective, the end game must be improved user experience and improved operations.


Automatic, integrated pass-throughs from process mining or discovery to bot creation will save time and effort. But smart movers will pay attention to value as they progress, in terms of value to operations with quantifiable impact on the top or bottom line.


Our HFS view is you’re missing the point of automation if you don’t leverage it as an opportunity to revisit, revamp, and reinvent how you run your business, which requires evaluating your existing process debt. And you’re missing the point of process mining if you only think of it only in terms of automating processes. The power of AND reigns supreme!

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