The origins of process mining techniques can be traced back to the academic world in Europe where Dr. Wil van der Aalst, a very well-known Dutch computer scientist, realized that analysing event lots from IT systems could provide valuable insights. What formerly required gathering operational teams to map processes current state to find pain points and bottlenecks could be performed in an easier and more straightforward way. It was the German company Celonis who saw an opportunity to leverage process mining to transform the operations of large companies and became the “first mover”. However, business growth will come neither with academical insights nor process mining marketing but through business transformations which created E2E digital flows for core processes through cloud-based platforms, integrated systems and robotic automation. Nevertheless, before leaving behind “brown paper” process mapping, the post-its and sometimes endless discussions to determine process current state, I would like to discuss about the “digital variability” as well as to establish the difference between increasing “visibility” and building “actionability” to finally have in place and in use the digital “happy path”.

Why digital variability occurs?

To begin with, any digital transformation roadmap should have three stages: simplify, standardize and digitalize. Moreover, without the first two stages the term “transformation” should not be used because if the process is neither more streamline nor standard nothing in fact has been transformed but instead the same process with all its problems and bottlenecks has been translated into a digital framework. Furthermore, by omitting working with the people in designing a simpler process accepted by all the stakeholders, not only the deployment of the new technology has been severely compromised by being deprived from process SME’s knowledge but also its adoption has been reduced by including only the “early adopters”. Neither the “early” nor “late majority” of the people, without even mentioning the “laggards”, have truly adopted the new technology which sometimes not only incorporates former process issues but also adds new ones due to “lack of” or “poor customization”.

Increasing “visibility” through process mining

Another point to consider, is that by making visible process performance and showing digital variability the process is not going to be improved. On one hand, to increase visibility will allow to identify the “happy path” which should become the process future state. On the other, process mining will allow leaders and teams to define the current state by knowing how frequently the “happy path” is used in contrast with all the other alternatives of the process. However, information is not knowledge as well as knowledge not always is translated into action to improve processes. If process mining brings only a technology without a framework that includes people and organizational learning, it won’t allow to improve the process by reducing digital variability because it will be using the same approach with which created that variability was created in the first place. As Einstein stated: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

Building “actionability” for continuous improvement

Firstly, it is important to establish the difference between “rush” to deploy and fix technology from “accelerating” both business transformation and continuous improvement because certainly they are not the same. Moreover, organizations should question themselves about “digital variability” as an outcome of the supposed “transformation” which is just as symptom showing that technology is necessary but not enough to produce business results. Furthermore, when dealing with this “digital variability” through continuous improvement the approach should not be the same which has created it if different outcomes are expected. Therefore, process mining must be seen is an enabler which doesn’t replace neither people nor organizational learning since both are essential to turn information into knowledge. Then through “meaningful insights” at individual and organizational level that knowledge will be turned into action to develop a new way of working with the streamline process (“happy path”) successfully adopted this time by all the stakeholders as the agreed standard.

Thanks for Reading.

Marcelo Sauro is an internationally experienced performance and improvement senior manager. He holds an Executive MBA and Master of Science degrees and has helped people and organizations to transform themselves. Not only he led E2E transformations in Global Business Services, R&D, Supply Chain and Finance organizations at all levels within the LATAM and EMEA Regions, but he is also experienced in several industries including Life Science, Healthcare, Insurance, Fintech, Technology, Telecoms, FMCG, Chemicals, Automotive, Energy and Mining. Since 2015, he has been researching and developing content in agile and resilience through Value Ways, while working under contract for customers such as MetLife, Novartis, Vertiv (Emerson NP) and Experian among others. Previously, he worked for more than 7 years as Master Black Belt for a LATAM-based consulting group, which had ASQ, Qualtec and Oriel as business partners. Prior to that, he worked for more than 10 years at BASF and GSK in positions of growing responsibility in the area of Operational Excellence. Marcelo is currently working at Ferring's “International PharmaScience Center” (IPC) for the Global R&D organization in Copenhagen. To find out more please visit

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