Insights from business process analytics

Linking a better understanding of business processes to reduced costs and improved efficiency may not be new, but the concept has attracted renewed interest in the aftermath of COVID-19 and its repercussions on the labor market.

Since spring 2021, some 33 million Americans have quit their jobs. Why so many people are leaving the workplace is open for debate. Some believe it is rooted in a total rejection of the working world by young, able-bodied Americans. Others note that the vast majority of those leaving the workforce are older workers who have decided to retire early or secondary earners who quit their jobs to take care of their kids when the pandemic closed schools.  

Regardless of the reason, businesses across a broad spectrum of industries have been left to deal with yet another challenge as experienced employees have opted to walk out the door, often taking with them the institutional knowledge about how work gets done and how that work is linked to the company’s higher-level business objectives. It has also left those same businesses struggling to train new employees since their deeper understanding of business processes existed only in the minds of those now-departed employees.   

This potential recipe for disaster is at the heart of the renewed interest so many companies are showing in business processes and, more specifically, business process analysis (BPA), a discipline that focuses on documenting and analyzing business processes to make them better, and improve efficiency and value delivery.

More holistic than the slightly outdated business process management approach, BPA relies on data to find business processes and identify ways to optimize them through alignment with the organization’s business objectives and goals. Doing so allows BPA to continuously reduce costs, increase efficiency, and drive higher value by identifying which processes contribute to that, which don’t, and what changes can be made to rectify misaligned or poor processes.  

Properly implemented, BPA can generate a wide range of benefits, from increasing time-to-value for product applications and identifying capacity limits and potential improvements – an essential consideration for scaling – to exposing labor redundancies, communications gaps, and compliance issues.

Just as important in the face of labor shortages, BPA and the subsequent automation it is likely to bring about will mitigate the impact of high employee turnover. By shifting the dependency of mechanical process execution from the worker to an always-on automation, businesses can protect themselves from employee departures and keep that process knowledge in-house. 

Further, BPA breathes new life into the company culture, generating an improved employee experience and better engagement for internal processes. This is particularly important in accommodating the needs of many younger employees, who want to be involved in engaging, mission-critical work. This future workforce demands jobs that require critical thinking, not mundane, repetitive tasks that can be better handled by a bot.   

Employee engagement and collaboration seem likely to play a key role in shaping the future of BPA. With even relatively small companies operating around the world with employees spread across numerous time zones, BPA platforms are already capable of integrating all of the collaborative functions required for seamless content and file sharing, internal communications, and more. As enterprise mobility becomes increasingly widespread, BPA solutions and cloud connectivity will likely make it possible for business processes to be completed anytime, anywhere.     

In the nearer term, though, look for BPA to address the key pain points businesses currently are experiencing. Primary among these is the lack of context many process and task-mining solutions provide with respect to the way in which processes fit strategically and contribute to higher-level business goals.

While most current BPA solutions allow businesses to mine event logs and identify the steps involved in a process such as customer engagement, few offer the context which enables the user to determine where there are downturns, blocks, or unexpectedly low conversions. Similarly, most fail to show how those steps are related to ongoing customer relations, retention, attrition, and other processes related to the customer journey. As a result, related processes cannot be analyzed and improvements that will optimize all customer-related activities are unable to be made. 

All of this suggests that from a technical perspective, contextual capabilities are among the enhancements most likely to be included in BPA in the not-too-distant future. Doing so will elicit even more intelligence which, in turn, will allow for more insight with respect to an organization’s processes and how they relate to each other. 

Look to for BPA to add the simulation and analysis capabilities to show where an organization’s processes can be improved in order to drive greater efficiencies and higher quality, while reducing costs. No-code/low-code platforms that enable companies to build and deploy applications that use visual development environments featuring drag-and-drop and pre-made elements also seem likely to gain prominence in the near-term. 

In the face of mounting challenges and a dynamic and increasingly global business landscape, the question facing most companies with regard to implementing BPA shouldn’t be when or why, but how soon. Most businesses have thousands of processes where waste, inefficiencies, and money being lost are hidden. They are, in short, struggling to understand how their businesses operate, often in the face of seeing vital institutional knowledge walk out the door when key employees quit. BPA is the vehicle which enables that understanding to happen and with it, the ability to make better business decisions which reduce costs, increase efficiency, and maintain competitiveness.