And gets it wrong - then further constraints itself within the automatic automation rabbit hole. Here's a look at Business Process Discovery in functional organisations and the role of automatic process discovery tools, their strengths, risks, and limitations.
Automatic Automation and the Customer
Business Process Discovery in Functional Organisations
Business process discovery (BPD) is a systematic and unstructured approach to mapping current operational business processes. It is performed in functional organisations and gradually brings organisational business process orientation to a higher maturity.
BPD relies on a set of skills performed prior to where the user starts to perform actions through a workflow orchestrated process application (BPMS), and prior to where the machine starts to replicate and repeat actions performed through a user interface (RPA).
BPD also relies on knowledge that is a posteriori to expertise of business segment and division dependencies and internal unit operations of a particular business. These relations are integral to successful organisational business process management at scale.
With that it is important to keep in mind - whether you like it or not - that business process enactment, or execution, or automation are part of the wider business process management life-cycle.
Simply, the route between business process discovery and enactment goes through process analysis and redesign, after which enactment is succeeded with new process operations.
Furthermore, the distance between a business process and actions performed by a user through a user interface makes the difference between business process management & automation and business user activity automation (i.e. desktop automation). A distance at which, desktop automation is once more constrained by definition to its local desktop-sourced environment, and therefore, can only effect as such. Here's more explanation.
Desktop automation at the presentation layer of applications spans to the atomic activity of human-computer interaction. Without the slightest consideration to wider context. And in some cases solely via the presentation layer. As such, business processes are diminished to task and activity, and potentially to mental decisions of the employee. With employee decisions being outside the reach of any key logger, screen logger, or recorder, for the time being.
From one perspective: Process Mining. From another: Record-to-Deploy.
These two approaches remain highly constrained by current capability (mining) and by definition (record-to-deploy) to their locality within an organisation's business process landscape. As the two current groups of automated business process discovery tools, they are further discussed next in this article.
Automated Business Process Discovery
Leading examples in automated BPD come from the academically researched and applied BPM discipline of Process Mining and its associated software. Among other examples from the robotic space is this form of covert work process discovery. There are stark contrasts among these two groups of software tools. And there are strengths, limits, and risks to where each can be applied usefully and appropriately in RPA contexts.
Never claimed to be on par with process discovery requirements for RPA purposes. Or maybe once claimed to "support organisations throughout the life-cycle of RPA initiatives". Yet, despite that, Process Mining remains positioned as the best aid to RPA initiatives, just not at the keystroke or click-stream level. At all.
Process Mining Strengths and Uses in RPA Contexts
Current Process Mining Limitations and Risks in RPA Contexts
Record-to-Deploy Process Discovery
Functional organisations mostly do not have clearly defined business processes. More process-oriented organisations have a degree of process maturity which enables the wider business to define, measure, improve and take the right process initiatives.
Being process-oriented is in other words a matter of mastering a whole range of organisational techniques and principles in order to improve business processes and performance. One model suggests 6 factors having an impact on the maturity of business process orientation in organisations: Strategic Alignment, Culture, People, Methods, Governance, and information systems or information technology.
Visiting a functional and siloed business to offer process technology that is suited for a high level maturity of business process orientation means that you will be struck by a lack of defined business processes. A common characteristic of the functional enterprise is that lack of defined processes.
What would you do in such a scenario? Would you work to bring the functional enterprise and its silos to a more mature state on process orientation? Apparently not. This is where the massive short circuit effect of Record-to-Deploy happens.
Simply, if you know that your client practically has 'no processes', and that they are a highly functional and siloed business, and with that, they are not a process-oriented business, what would you do?
Wrong. You analyse before you automate. You optimise before you automate. You prepare for the wider process and business transformation before you automate. This approach is a subtle 'art' of silently recording human-computer interaction through a keystroke logger with screen logging features. Generally associated with common cyber-threats, Trojans, and computer viruses. It effectively short-circuits the functional enterprise transformation to something relatively unknown.
Going below business processes. Constraining black-box automation to keystroke and click-stream level. At best to be a form of desktop automation, human-task automation, or repetitive job automation. This approach to BPM has severely limited potentials to scale. Prior strides from straight-through processing and workflow automation deem the use cases for this sole type of automation to be relatively scarce and negligible within the wider business process landscape.
Record-to-Deploy Uses in RPA Contexts
Record-to-Deploy Inherent Limitations and Risks
The customer appeal of Record-to-Deploy RPA in Automatic Automation
Attempting business process automation at scale in functional and siloed business organisations is futile at best. Especially the more radical forms of work process automation through sole presentation layer integration.
Process-orientation comes in as an evolutionary step along the route from the functional enterprise to the future enterprise.
In this era, organisations or parts of organisations that are well managed and rely on a relatively mature process landscape can be propelled to the future of digital process operations more easily.
But, functional organisations or any remaining functional silos can only benefit from process technology in a more localised fashion. The route to the future for functional organisations or silos can be accelerated with a process-oriented transformation prior to attempting automation at scale.
In other scenarios, we better keep an eye on the upcoming failed large-scale digitalization and AI efforts in global businesses. Especially ones promising significantly bloated cost savings from digitalization and AI.
Reference: Willaert P., Van den Bergh J., Willems J., Deschoolmeester D. (2007) The Process-Oriented Organisation: A Holistic View Developing a Framework for Business Process Orientation Maturity. In: Alonso G., Dadam P., Rosemann M. (eds) Business Process Management. BPM 2007. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 4714. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg (link)