End-to-end process improvement: how SAP Signavio enables actionability by joining process mining and process automation
In our recent SAP Signavio Business Transformation Forum, in Berlin, we unveiled and discussed our vision around enabling enterprises to achieve Process Observability. When approaching the process observability topic, the first major focus is on how one can tackle all the organizational unknowns, technically and methodologically, as my colleague Timotheus Kampik analyzed in detail in this blog post.
But that is only one side of the coin: “a process is observable if stakeholders and systems understand how it operates, where the process outcomes are known, and actions can be derived to improve or change these outcomes.” On one side, organizations must know how they’re currently operating. On the other side, such knowledge must be turned into actions that can drive improvement. And it’s only the completion of this full flow allows the organization to gain business value and competitive advantage.
In a recent blog post, Sebastian Schroetel explained how we aim to streamline insight-to-action flows in SAP Signavio, leveraging SAP Build Process Automation as an integral part of the SAP Signavio Process Transformation Suite. In this post, I will dig deeper into that, analyzing how we aim to foster actionability from our process mining solution, SAP Signavio Process Intelligence.
Driving improvements from process mining: a dual-speed approach
Our vision at SAP Signavio, is to leverage process mining to enable enterprises to drive holistic process improvement initiatives out of their data and knowledge. Insights gathered from process mining analysis can drive process change across two different and complementary routes, as depicted in the following diagram:
- The deep cycle – Process transformation initiatives: in SAP Signavio Process Transformation Suite, process mining insights can guide changes to business process models (mining-to-modeling), which can then drive redeployment of the process in the core systems themselves (model-to-deploy) for deep and permanent process improvements.
- The fast cycle – Process operations improvement initiatives: in SAP Signavio Process Transformation Suite, process mining insights can now trigger the execution of actions that involve workflows or RPA bots in SAP Build Process Automation, to quickly deliver continuous improvements on the process on top of its core implementation and core model, which do not change.
While the “deep cycle” has been part of Signavio’s DNA for quite a while now (and will remain so and get further strengthened in the future), the “fast cycle” is instead an area of great innovations and growth, thanks to the powerful synergies enabled by SAP Build Process Automation.
Process Mining + Process Automation: improving process operations at scale
Let’s have a closer look at the “fast cycle” and how the process mining capabilities of SAP Signavio Process Intelligence and the automation capabilities of SAP Build Process Automation can work in synergy. For that, I would outline three main categories of use cases, as depicted in the following diagram:
- Process quick fixes: the “actions” that SAP Signavio Process Intelligence can generate out of process mining metrics can trigger the execution of workflows or RPA bots in SAP Build Process Automation, in an event-driven (asynchronous) fashion. Besides this, process mining metrics can also be synchronously queried from SAP Build Process Automation to influence the behavior of business rules that control workflow execution. These touch points open up several possibilities for implementing “quick fixes” to existing processes. For example, suppose the percentage of order reworks for a given supplier goes above a safety threshold in a Procure-to-Pay process. In that case, we could execute a workflow that activates an additional approval on the currently ongoing purchase requests for that supplier, because we know they are likely to incur operational issues. Or, to quote a different example that Sebastian shared in his previous blog post, when in a process mining metric we detect a bottleneck caused by unaligned business data we could raise an action that triggers the execution of a Cross-LoB process automation workflow for data harmonization (e.g., a Business Partner mismatch).
- Better informed decisions: process mining metrics and insights can also be used to enrich the information which is displayed to operational end users in human interaction steps of workflows or backend transactions, making sure that end users are made aware of all process information that is relevant to them when making decisions in their daily job. For example, in an approval screen of a purchase order we can display the most relevant process KPIs for the given supplier or requesting department, supporting the approver in making the most appropriate decision.
- Automation discovery: one of the most common use cases for process mining is the identification and quantification of candidate scenarios where implementing RPA bots could greatly help improve the process automation rate.
The unique combination of process mining and process automation capabilities within SAP Signavio Process Transformation Suite can provide comprehensive support for all these three categories. The specific innovations which are going to streamline these scenarios are the new Actions feature supported in SAP Signavio Process Intelligence, which is available in beta and is planned to be released in the next months*, and the API layer which will allow querying any SAP Signavio Process Intelligence metric, which is planned to be released in the first half of 2023. On top of this, we’re also working to provide ML-driven services, like a service to recommend the best RPA bot to execute for remediating a given KPI, which we also plan to roll out over the course of 2023*.
SAP Signavio’s actionability strategy: make insight-to-action real
Reviewing the breadth and depth of the end-to-end capability that we can now deliver with the tight integration of SAP Signavio Process Intelligence and SAP Build Process Automation, I’m excited, because I think it achieves a unique coverage. But what’s even more unique is how we built actionability to ensure it is concretely applicable and viable in complex enterprise landscapes.
In particular, the key principles that I would highlight are the following:
- Mining and automation are integrated but decoupled. SAP Signavio Process Intelligence, our process mining solution, and SAP Build Process Automation are now integrated out of the box. This integration will get tighter and tighter over time, but it’ll still stay based on two distinct services. This is key, from an enterprise architecture perspective, because process mining is a capability that belongs to the analytics realm, where data quality is the north star. Historic reach is a key requirement, while process automation belongs to the application realm, where transactional reliability is the north star and timely responsiveness is a key requirement. Consequently, these two capabilities are subject to separate governance practices, SLAs, and even organizational setups. Keeping them flexible, and avoiding monolith “all in one” architectures, is important to ensure concrete applicability in real-life enterprise scenarios.
- An open solution that adapts to existing landscapes, rather than the opposite. While we are clearly investing in the integration of SAP Signavio Process Intelligence and SAP Build Process Automation, with dedicated UIs and specific features for a seamless experience, we’re also committing to keeping them open. SAP Signavio Process Intelligence also supports standard webhooks that can execute actions on other automation engines that might already be in place in the enterprise landscape. Similarly, SAP Build Process Automation can also be fed by other process mining engines using standard APIs. Our promise and commitment, to SAP customers, is that while we strive to provide the best and most seamless end-to-end experience we also want to ensure that our technology can be leveraged safely and openly in complex enterprise landscapes, that are often crowded with lots of existing technologies.
- Make it easier with business content. At SAP, we have a long history and a huge experience in the business process space, and SAP Signavio One Process Acceleration Layer is where we’re translating experience and best practices into reusable business content that will shorten and simplify the adoption of these technologies for many common use cases, across several different industries and LoBs. While our technologies can also adapt to non-SAP or heavily customized processes, we want to ensure that the adoption experience on standard SAP-centric use cases is as fast and easy as possible.
In the coming weeks we’ll follow up with more content on this topic. Are you currently considering any work on data-driven process improvement and automation topics? Reach out to us in the SAP Signavio Community, we’ll be happy to listen to your feedback and ideas!