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Power Platform Insights: September 2023

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Leverage Process and Task Mining for Automation Excellence

Get Rid of the Modernization Blues

Many companies today rely on legacy, manual, and paper-based processes that are slow, error-prone, and inefficient. While digital transformation and modernization is a goal to expedite and automate operations, a key challenge is knowing where to begin. Without clear insight into which processes to prioritize and focus on, automation initiatives fail to deliver results, and often stall. 

This is where process and task mining capabilities, like those offered by Microsoft’s Power Automate Process Advisor, can provide vital insight and direction. 

Use Process Advisor to Jumpstart Your Modernization 

  • Process mining analyzes system log files to discover bottlenecks, variants, and optimization opportunities in business processes 
  • Task mining records user actions to help understand how employees perform processes 

Introducing Microsoft Power Automate Process Advisor 

Power Automate now includes market-leading process and task mining abilities through Process Advisor. This empowers organizations to objectively analyze their processes and tasks to build a fact base for intelligent automation. 

Process mining (added with the acquisition of Minit) provides an AI-powered X-ray into your process. By analyzing log data, such as your D365 audit logs, SAP, or your own data lake, process mining can provide a deep, data-driven analysis of your processes, identify failures, and provide root cause failure analysis. These powerful KPI’s can be easily expanded with Power BI. 

Drawing on lessons learned from Process Advisor deployments, Hitachi Solutions recommends focusing process mining on key areas like order-to-cash, claims management, and customer onboarding. Highly variable and infrequent processes are not optimal.  

The discovered process maps and performance metrics help companies identify the highest ROI automation opportunities. Process mining also highlights process inefficiencies that can be improved through simplification, standardization, or policy changes. Rather than guessing, data guides the transformation. 

Lessons Learned from Process Advisor Deployments 

Here’s a quick checklist to help you begin your journey:  

  • Prepare the data: you need to have log files that include consistent record ID’s and stages, but you don’t want to include too much “noise” data. Transform the data to remove unnecessary data. 
  • Provide clear guidance and examples for labeling conventions upfront so users are consistent 
  • Consider having a smaller group of power users handle the labeling rather than all end users 
  • Explore if automation can assist with labeling common steps 
  • Make sure to communicate the importance of proper labeling for getting quality insights 
  • See if the process can be broken into smaller sub-processes that are easier to label 
  • Build in time for iterative reviews and corrections of labeling 
  • Provide training for users recording processes for task mining to show them how to optimally use the recorder 

Determining ROI and Optimization Opportunities 

Process Advisor data can also help determine ROI for automation and optimize processes in the following ways: 

For Optimization 

  • Identify redundant steps to streamline processes 
  • Analyze causes of rework loops to reduce errors 
  • Review activity duration to find bottlenecks 
  • Consider standardizing process variants 
  • Evaluate activity frequency to redesign rarely used steps 
  • Simulate optimizations to estimate impact on KPIs 
  • Determine if some complex tasks are better performed manually 
  • Redesign systems and forms to remove unnecessary data requests 

For Automation ROI 

  • Analyze total time spent on manual tasks that could be automated 
  • Estimate development costs for automating each task 
  • Factor in ongoing automation maintenance costs 
  • Calculate ROI as annual time savings – automation costs / automation costs 
  • Prioritize automating high ROI tasks first 

Process Advisor provides the data to build a solid fact base for identifying automation and process improvement opportunities. Turning these insights into action is key to driving quantifiable business value.

Processes Optimal for Process Mining 

Certain processes tend to be most suitable for process mining initiatives: 

  • Cross-departmental processes — Process mining provides end-to-end visibility across functions 
  • High-value processes — Complex, mission-critical processes that significantly impact revenue and costs warrant focus 
  • Inefficient processes — Those with known bottlenecks, delays, or quality issues are prime candidates 
  • Compliance-related processes — Any processes with regulatory requirements can benefit 
  • Automation candidates — Transactional, repetitive processes that can be automated 
  • High-volume processes — Optimizing these can yield major gains 

In general, complex and frequent processes with optimization needs provide the most ROI. 

Data Requirements for Process Mining 

To perform process mining, the following key data fields are required: 

  • Record ID — A unique identifier for each instance of a record like a case, order or invoice 
  • Activity Name — Descriptive names for each process step 
  • Start Timestamp — The date/time when the activity started 
  • End Timestamp — The date/time when the activity ended 

Note—you may need to transform your data to get it in the optimal format for process mining, or to remove unnecessary data. Using PowerQuery, you can also add additional values to include in the analysis. 

This event log data captures what happened in each instance of a process execution. The record ID correlates the events to each instance. The start and end timestamps enable tracking duration. 

Together, these fields allow process mining to reconstruct process models from actual executions and analyze performance. Event logs or activity logs from source systems provide the raw data to fuel process mining analysis. 

Analyzing Power Apps and Bots with Process Advisor 

Process Advisor isn’t just for assessing manual processes — you can also use it to analyze your automated solutions built in Power Platform. 

For example, there is a template in Process Advisor specifically for evaluating Power Virtual Agents chatbots. It maps out the conversation flows between topics, redirects, and outcomes. This provides visibility into which parts of the dialogues are triggering escalations or abandonment. 

Process Advisor can also analyze logs from Power Apps and robotic process automation bots. By assessing where automation is underperforming, you can iteratively improve the solutions. 

So beyond revealing inefficiencies in legacy processes, Process Advisor is a powerful tool for monitoring and enhancing your modern app and bot workflows. It delivers a data-driven approach to optimizing automation. 

By leveraging process and task mining capabilities like those in Microsoft’s Process Advisor, organizations can confidently transform legacy processes through data-driven automation and optimization. The result is increased efficiency, lower costs, and improved customer and employee experiences. Process mining provides a roadmap to guide companies successfully into the future of intelligent automation. 

Here’s A Recent Example of How Process Advisor Helped Our Customer

A mid-sized manufacturing company recently deployed Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations (F&O) with the goal of improving its operational efficiency and decision-making capabilities. To achieve this, the company decided to leverage Process Advisor for process mining. 

Our Solution 

The Hitachi Solutions data architect reviewed the company’s data and created an Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) process that transformed the data into a format suitable for Process Advisor. This process enabled the company to analyze historical data from their Dynamics 365 F&O application and refresh it on an ongoing basis through a dataflow. 

The company’s data analyst used the standard Microsoft Power BI dashboards in Process Advisor to visualize the data, which helped them identify inefficiencies and points of failure in their processes. A Hitachi Solutions Power BI developer extended the standard reports by adding additional KPIs tailored to the company’s specific needs. 

Business users — including the CFO, COO, CRO, and CMO — utilized the process mining dashboards to monitor their organization’s performance in near real time. This allowed them to identify opportunities for process improvement and achieve higher operational efficiency while mitigating undesired process outcomes. 

A Hitachi Solutions business advisory consultant collaborated with the company to leverage the insights captured with process mining and design a more efficient process. Following this, a Hitachi Solutions automation developer helped automate the redesigned process using Power Automate, further enhancing its efficiency. 

Immediate Benefits 

By leveraging Process Advisor for process mining, the customer experienced the following benefits: 

  • Data-driven Hyperautomation: The process analysis from process mining enabled the company to prioritize which items had the biggest value to automate, allowing them to hyperautomate smartly and significantly increase efficiency and reduce manual effort. 
  • Improved Operational Efficiency: The Power BI visuals and dashboards enabled the company to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies in their processes, allowing them to make data-driven decisions to optimize their operations. 
  • Enhanced Decision-making: The tailored KPIs and dashboards provided valuable insights to the company’s leadership, empowering them to make informed decisions that positively impacted their organization’s performance. 
  • Proactive Issue Resolution: By identifying points of failure in near real-time, the company could address process issues and failures quickly, reducing the impact of any disruptions on their operations.