Identifying Deviations and Variations 

In process exploration, one of the primary goals is to understand how processes are being executed in reality compared to how they're designed or expected to be executed. This understanding is crucial for process improvement, compliance, risk management, and operational efficiency. Identifying deviations and variations plays a central role in achieving this understanding.

Deviations vs. Variations:

  • Deviations refer to instances where a process is not followed as designed or expected. They may arise due to errors, non-compliance, or other unforeseen situations.
  • Variations are different ways a process might be executed to achieve the same outcome. These are not necessarily incorrect or non-compliant but can indicate inefficiencies or areas for standardization.

Identifying Deviations and Variations in Process Exploration:

  1. Process Mapping: Start by documenting the "as-designed" or "as-expected" process. This gives a blueprint against which actual executions can be compared.
  2. Data Collection: Using tools like process mining, gather real execution data from event logs in IT systems. This data offers a detailed and objective view of how processes are actually being carried out.
  3. Process Discovery: With the help of process mining tools, visualize the "as-is" process based on real execution data. This visualization will showcase the actual flow, including all paths taken during process executions.
  4. Comparison: Contrast the "as-is" process with the "as-designed" process. Points of divergence will highlight deviations and variations.
  5. Frequency Analysis: Examine how often each variation or deviation occurs. Rare occurrences might indicate errors or exceptional cases, while frequent variations could suggest alternative strategies used by employees to complete tasks.
  6. Root Cause Analysis: For significant deviations or variations, delve deeper to understand their causes. This could involve interviews, surveys, or further data analysis.
  7. Impact Analysis: Understand the business impact of these deviations or variations. For example, a deviation might lead to compliance risks, customer dissatisfaction, or increased costs. A variation, on the other hand, might uncover a more efficient way of doing things that could be standardized.

Benefits of Identifying Deviations and Variations:

  • Enhanced Efficiency: By spotting and addressing inefficiencies, organizations can streamline their processes.
  • Reduced Risks: Identifying and rectifying deviations ensures that processes remain compliant and that risks are minimized.
  • Continuous Improvement: Regularly checking for deviations and variations can foster a culture of continuous improvement, where processes are constantly refined based on real-world data.
  • Employee Engagement: Recognizing variations can highlight innovative methods employees are using. Engaging with them can offer insights into why they prefer these methods and how processes can be improved.

In the realm of process exploration, recognizing deviations and variations is not just about finding and correcting errors. It's also about understanding the realities of day-to-day operations, learning from them, and evolving processes to better suit the needs of the organization and its stakeholders.