Operations
9 MIN READ

What is Business Process Discovery?

What is Business Process Discovery and what are common pain points?

Business process discovery helps businesses understand and analyze their current processes in their ‘as-is’ state. In this article, we will teach you the definition, benefits, and importance of process discovery, as well as the repercussions of undiscovered processes.

Introduction

A business is a complex labyrinth of processes that work in symphony to create a valuable business outcome. These processes are the foundation of your business operations and include tasks, documents, tools, employees, teams, departments, and a lot more. 

When business processes work efficiently, your business performance meets all the prerequisites for growth and sustainability. But when there are inefficiencies in your business processes, they manifest in the form of inadequate business performance, customer dissatisfaction, and employee frustration. 

The natural solution to fixing inefficient business processes is to improve them with Business Process Improvement (BPI) techniques. But you can only fix something you know is broken. 

Business process discovery is a technique used by businesses to extract information on existing processes within the organization to improve them. It is an important part of the business process improvement process that helps identify processes that need fixing.  

Let us dig deeper into the concept of business process discovery and its importance, benefits, as well as challenges.

Table of Content

What is Business Process Discovery?

Business process discovery is defined as a set of techniques that build a representation of an organization's current business processes, which include their workflows, structures, and elements. These techniques make use of existing records, documentation, and technology systems that run business processes to extract process information.

Processes are everywhere in a business, they are omnipresent, just like in our day-to-day lives. Process discovery techniques allow businesses to study the underlying structure of existing processes with available process information such as data logs, employee insights, and other process documentation. 

Process discovery helps decompose business processes to identify friction and discrepancies within them. By capturing task-level details, it helps locate bottlenecks, deviations, and exceptions in the day-to-day process workflows.

The insights from process discovery techniques are concrete steps toward business process improvement, making process discovery an important program for businesses wanting to improve their performance.

Before we jump into the benefits and importance of process discovery, let us understand the difference between process discovery, mapping, and documentation. 

Process Discovery vs Process Mapping vs Process Documentation

Oftentimes, there is confusion between the techniques of process discovery, process mapping, and process documentation. Below we state the clear distinction between these three concepts.

Process Discovery

Process discovery, as we established, is a set of techniques used to identify the current structure and workflow of business processes in their as-is state using existing records and documentation of the processes. The techniques mainly focus on extracting information from current and historic process documentation to understand the current processes and their flow. 

Process Mapping

Process mapping is the technique used to visually represent a process workflow to understand, interpret, and improve the existing process. This technique uses the outcomes of the process discovery method to produce a visual workflow of any business process. Process mapping is the next step after process discovery.  Read this article for details on Business Process Mapping

Process Documentation

Business process documentation is the process of outlining a detailed description of how a process needs to be executed. It uses the insights derived from the process discovery technique and documents the step-by-step process to make them learnable, viewable, and improvable. It primarily focuses on answering the question - 'how is the process implemented?' Looking to document your processes? Check out our detailed guide on business process documentation.

Common Pain Points of Undiscovered Processes

While you may think that everything is going well in your business operations, there are times when you feel the need for improvement. Here are some of the common pain points of undiscovered processes that you can relate to:

  • There is a lack of uniformity in process execution
    A process is a set of repeated tasks and activities performed to obtain a specified outcome. Undiscovered processes lack the uniformity of steps and activities that are repeated every time the process is executed. This lack of uniformity can cause missing certain important steps, affecting the overall outcome of the process. 
  • There is little or no documentation
    When processes are not documented, the common reason is that there is not enough effort put in to understand the existing structure and workflow of the process. Process documentation can only happen when the processes are represented in their as-is state. 
  • Process output is inconsistent
    Undiscovered processes often lack uniformity and documentation. This leads to inconsistency in the output expected from the process. Inconsistent outcomes suggest clear gaps within your business processes that need your attention.
  • There is frustration due to process problems
    Undiscovered processes are the root cause of your process problems. From the lack of clarity and documentation to ownership and uniformity, undiscovered processes are bound to create problems in the overall operations of your business. This leads to employee frustration and burnouts, even affecting personal lives.

Why Is Business Process Discovery Important?

Business process discovery is an important step in business process improvement. Let us understand the importance of process discovery.

  • It helps you identify your processes in their as-is state
    Many times, a process is so ingrained and routine that the minute details of the steps involved in the process are not clear and in the open amongst your employees. These details can be in your employee's head or entered in your system, but not documented as a necessary step to be taken while executing the process. While such details can be minor and overlooked, they can make a huge difference in the outcome of the process.

    Process discovery is a technique that identifies the smallest of the details involved in a process. It ensures that every step of your process is scrutinized to understand your process in its as-is state. When the process is seen in this raw state, it is easy to identify gaps, leaks, and opportunities for improvement.
  • It helps you identify gaps and leaks in your process system
    Process discovery deconstructs your process details, and in doing so, identifies the gaps in the performance of your processes. These gaps and leaks present opportunities for your business to make process improvements

When your processes are discovered, you learn about the:

  1. gaps that can be fixed
  2. opportunities for process improvements
  3. learnings from well-performing process elements
  • It removes uncertainties from existing processes
    Process discovery scrutinizes your processes to the deepest level possible, leaving no room for uncertainty about your process execution steps. In this way, there is no grey area in your process execution steps - everything is outlined the way it should happen.

    By removing uncertainties, you ensure that the process execution is uniform across the business operations system. This helps maintain the performance and quality of your business operations. 
  • It helps you map and document your processes
    You can only document and map your processes when you uncover the detailed steps, employees, teams, etc., involved in the process. This is why process discovery plays a critical role in process mapping and process documentation.

When Should You Consider Discovering Your Processes?

While there are a lot of reasons for you to start discovering your processes, we identified some major red flags that notify you to start thinking about process discovery. You should consider discovering your processes when:

  • You want to improve your business processes
    The most common reason why businesses invest in process discovery is to improve their existing business processes. Process discovery plays a critical role in business process improvement. It highlights detailed tasks, elements, people, gaps, and opportunities involved in a process. This clarity allows a business to take the necessary steps required to fix the process gaps and improve the process execution. Read our article on Business Process Improvement 101.
  • You want to automate your business processes
    Business process automation is a technology-enabled solution to automate complex business processes. Some business processes are very demanding of time and effort, which is why businesses today are looking at automating such complex processes with the help of technology. But before you can automate, you need to understand the existing process in its as-is state. Business process discovery is an ideal technique to help you understand an existing process with its minute details. 
  • You want to document your business processes
    Process documentation is the technique used by businesses to document the steps involved in executing a business process. Documentation is necessary for any business to maintain clarity and uniformity across their business processes. Process discovery is an important technique to enable documentation as it identifies process details using historic and current records to enlist specific steps involved in a process. 
  • You want to improve employee satisfaction
    Processes are an ongoing cycle of operations, and your employees are a critical part of these processes. To ensure your employees are happy and satisfied, you need to make sure that your processes are transparent and effective. Process discovery increases the visibility of a process and encourages ownership of tasks and steps involved in a process. It also increases the effectiveness of a process by identifying gaps and creating opportunities for improvement in the execution of a process. 
  • You want to reduce burnouts
    Tangled, ineffective processes cause frustration, burnouts, and a serious impact on personal lives. If you are facing challenges similar to these, you need to invest in the exercise of business process improvement. Process discovery is a primary step towards process improvement. The technique helps pinpoint the exact problem of a process by representing the process in a step-by-step guide. Hence, process discovery is the first step toward reducing burnouts and employee frustration.

Benefits of Business Process Discovery

The benefits of business process discovery are closely aligned with the advantages of other business improvement techniques such as process mapping, process documentation, and process mining. Let us take a look at some distinctive benefits of implementing process discovery.

  • Enables Process Visibility
    One of the key advantages of implementing process discovery is that it enables visibility on the tasks involved in a process. This encourages ownership of specific process steps, workflows, and structure. With a complete map of the processes, enterprises can easily identify new pathways and future automation opportunities.
  • Reduces Process Risks
    Process discovery identifies gaps and leaks from within the process, hence allowing an opportunity to fix such otherwise invisible gaps. This proves to be a preventive approach to process management that minimizes risks after severe scrutiny of process operations. 
  • Captures Processes from Employees’ Heads onto Paper
    Process discovery helps you capture the steps and procedures involved in your processes that are stored in your employees’ and partners' heads, and document them so that they are accessible to everyone. If such a process is not discovered and the process is not documented, you run the risk of losing important process information when the employee or partner decides to move out. This makes it difficult to predict process outcomes since the process is not standardized and changes almost every time the process is executed.
  • Increases Cost efficiency
    Process discovery techniques lay process details on the table for everyone to map, understand, and analyze. When the gaps and leaks are identified, the opportunities to fix the gaps are approached with cost-effective solutions, thus saving costs and optimizing the performance of the process.
  • Maximises ROI
    Process discovery enables process optimization as well as cost savings by fixing broken and tangled processes. This contributes to maximizing the ROI of processes, teams, operations, and the business. Hence, process discovery is a stepping stone towards maximizing business ROI.
  • Improves Process Performance
    By enabling process task ownership, reducing risks, saving costs, and maximizing ROI, process discovery impacts the overall performance of business processes. It is a concrete step towards business process improvement. 

Conclusion

The insights derived from business process discovery are critical to managing, controlling, and improving business processes. With businesses looking to automate and simplify processes with the help of technology, process discovery continues to gain momentum amongst leading businesses. Wanting to start discovering your processes to simplify them? Schedule a discovery call with us right away!

Take Business Process Improvement Opportunity Assessment