For a while now, Microsoft has been offering a service for process mining and task mining. In Power Automate there is a Process Mining tool embedded. Process mining can help with e.g. finding bottlenecks or errors in processes or making measured decisions on what tasks could be automated. While I have my main focus on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, process mining is a very interesting event analysis tool that can help many ERP customers. After giving some presentations about this topic, I thought it would be useful to share my knowledge on my website. This will be my first post about the Process Mining tool, but I will add more posts in the future on this topic looking at it from the angle of Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations.
What is Process Mining?
Before directly jumping into the solution, I will first give a short introduction about what is Process Mining and the offer from Microsoft.
”Process mining is a family of techniques relating the fields of data science and process management to support the analysis of operational processes based on event logs.”Source: Wikipedia
Event logs have some mandatory columns and optional columns. As a minimum to be able to create a process map, there should be a case ID, activity description, and a start date/time. In one of my next posts, I will elaborate on the event log format.
Event logs should be processed into (visual) insights so that they can support different categories of process mining. Some organizations might not be fully aware of all variations in their process. Using process mining you can do some process discovery to learn more about process duration, which activities have bottlenecks, and compare variations of the process across your organization. In case you have well described all your processes, you might want to verify if the process conforms to the theoretical process. When knowing the duration of each activity and/or lead times between the activities, you can check what to improve to speed up your process.
Now, when looking at Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, what would be a typical use case for process mining? Probably you want to learn about your end-to-end order-to-cash process. Using process mining, you can check the root cause of possible process delays or deviations. Are return orders having a huge impact on your process? In case of delivery delays, it is related to a particular product line? Or what other issues or points for improvement can you find?
In case there are issues with project invoicing, you can also consider using process mining for workflow performance on timesheet approvals and invoice proposal approvals. You can then check the lead time between workflow submission and approval. Maybe there are a lot of timesheets being rejected that first need to be corrected. There are many more examples to think about for starting some mining.
What is the Process Mining tool?
Above, I provided just a few words trying to bring you the basic ideas of process mining. Now, let’s focus on the tool provided by Microsoft. As of a few years, Process Advisor is available in Power Automate. This is currently named Process Mining tool. It is a tool to analyze event logs for process mining, but also has capabilities for task mining. What is the difference between these two?
In short, using process mining, you would typically analyze a process where its activities can span multiple applications and machines. Task mining is about all individual actions and keystrokes done by a user on a desktop or device for a specific activity. This is visualized in the next picture.
Microsoft not only offers a cloud solution for process mining but also has a desktop application that is seamlessly connected with the cloud process flows. The desktop application was part of an acquisition of Minit to expand its features. The desktop application has richer capabilities to perform e.g. a root cause analysis or comparison.
You can get started with the Process Mining capabilities by enabling a 90-day trial the first time you visit the Process Mining overview page. It is possible to extend this trial. The trial has limitations on the capacity which is 100 MB per process.
As mentioned above, Process Mining tool is part of Power Automate. You can open a browser and navigate to the Power Automate maker experience. https://make.powerautomate.com Then you can use the menu to open Process mining.
You can also directly land on the Process Mining overview page using this link: https://make.powerautomate.com/processadvisor/home
The Process mining overview page provides a clear overview of the options you can do, My first recommendation would be creating a new process starting from the templates Show me a finance process or Show me a supply chain process. These examples don’t have any relation with Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, they are fictitious processes with some demo data. When starting one of these processes, the sample data and report will be prepared which will take several minutes to complete.
When the report is ready, you can explore the reporting provided out of the box. You can set the view on count or duration. The higher the count or duration, the more the activity will be highlighted. There are also options to filter activities or set focus on particular activities in the graphical map. There is also information provided about the variants in the process. You can just click and look around, you will not be able to cripple the report as you can’t change the underlying data directly.
More features for analysis of the process are available in the powerful desktop application. You can download the Process Mining app that connects with the cloud service to retrieve data. When you log in, you can see all your processes created in Power Automate. When opening a process, you will find the process map and more features for performing some analysis, such as a process animation, root cause analysis, and process comparison.
YouTube demonstration video
A video with a small demonstration is available. On my YouTube channel, I added a playlist for The F&O Twist on Process Mining. More videos will be added along with more blogs posts on Process Mining.
There is more…
This post provides a first introduction to process mining and how to get started. There are more topics to discuss. In my next posts, I will for example write about:
- How to create a new process with your own event log
- Process mining integration, available in Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management
- How to create event logs from Dynamics 365 F&O transactional data
If you want to learn more about Process Mining, you can explore the documentation on Microsoft Learn: Overview of process mining and task mining in Power Automate – Power Automate | Microsoft Learn
I do hope you liked this post and will add value for you in your daily work as a professional. If you have related questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to use the Comment feature below.
That’s all for now. Till next time!