The importance of an integrated approach to improving business processes

Professor Marcello La Rosa, leader of the Information Systems group within the School of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne on why both Lean Six Sigma and business process mining are key to process improvement.

All organisations can benefit from improved process management. Whether it’s payroll in a retail store or patient admissions in a hospital, more streamlined processes are key to organisational performance.

Central to this is a strong process improvement methodology. Lean Six Sigma is a tried-and-true model, used worldwide since the eighties when it was developed. Using a data-driven approach, Lean Six Sigma aims to cut out waste and increase efficiencies in an organisation.

But, as Professor Marcello La Rosa, leader of the Information Systems group within the School of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne says, “extracting and cleaning data has notoriously been a time-consuming and error-prone activity, especially when such data needs to be collected and prepared manually.”

As a result, business process mining, which is a relatively new approach to extracting business process insights from data – and an aide to Lean Six Sigma – is now considered just as a key part of process improvement.

“Process mining provides an acceleration to the Lean Six Sigma methodology by offering a concrete technology, and a set of techniques, to automatically discover and analyse business processes based on complete datasets rather sample data, which Lean Six Sigma previously relied on.”

By harnessing the transactional data that flows through an organisation, process mining bridges the gap between data science and process improvement methodologies, like Lean Six Sigma, to map out how an organisation actually operates.

“By providing a comprehensive and factual picture of the way operations are conducted in an organisation, process mining offers a solid basis for starting and executing a Lean Six Sigma project according to the Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control (DMAIC) lifecycle –the approach underpinning the methodology.”

At every step of DMAIC – which is often referred to as the core approach used to drive Six Sigma projects – process mining improves effectiveness, speed and accuracy. As businesses undergo increasing digital transformation and create more, and more accessible data, this is critically important.

A vast amount of data is incredibly valuable because it can be analysed to reveal useful information to support business operations. But often it is left unexploited, resulting in a stark contrast between the perceived way business operations are conducted and reality, easily leading to ill-informed decisions and detrimental consequences (Apromore, 2020).

Business process mining allows data to be exploited to the benefit of businesses. As the father of process mining, Professor Wil van der Aalst has said, data is not enough. People must be able to use it smartly and apply it to process improvement.

The value of these two methodologies and approaches to business process improvement is uncontested. Knowing how to use them together is invaluable.

At the University of Melbourne, this is exactly what is offered through complementary courses in both Lean Six Sigma and Business Process Mining.

Designed by experts from the School of Computing and Information Systems, the self-contained programs have been developed to naturally fit into each other, says Professor La Rosa. “They’re directly informed by our own research and innovation activities on business process management and process mining at the University of Melbourne.”

While the Lean Six Sigma course provides practical insights and a “common-sense approach to solving recurring process problems to help you deliver real tangible solutions to your organisation,” says certified Master Black Belt who runs our Lean Six Sigma training, Mr Moutou, our Business Process Mining course provides a hands-on introduction of process mining to complement that. It illustrates the main techniques and tools for process mining, discusses what analytics can be extracted, and how these can be visualised and interpreted to gain better insights on how an organisation works.

Together, the courses provide skillsets in both methodologies that can be used in tandem. “We wanted to make sure people could do the programs then immediately run a process mining project with the DMAIC cycle in their workplace,” says Professor La Rosa.

Any professionals involved in continuous improvement projects, specialist or not, will benefit from these programs. This includes managers and directors, business analysts and process analysts, process improvement specialists, operational excellence managers, digital transformation managers, as well as IT staff such as solution architects.

Whatever your role, says Professor La Rosa, says, the courses will help you “utilise data-driven evidence, instead of relying on mere intuition, to make decisions. We’re setting you up with skills you can use to have an impact.”

Check out the Business Process Mining short course and book into the next session now.