1660343033990 Charlesswordblueprintcro

A guide to continuous process improvement via task-capture solutions

Aug. 6, 2021

And an examination of the difference between processes and tasks.

Blueprint Software Systems' Charles Sword

As robotic process automation (RPA) efforts mature, it has become more challenging for manufacturers to uncover processes that represent good candidates for the strategy.

Properly executed, RPA can automate a host of repetitive, ruled-based processes, minimizing the amount of time spent on manual tasks (and the potential for human error) while simultaneously lowering costs, improving productivity, and driving innovation.

The catch, though, is that to be effective. RPA requires identification of those processes that truly showcase its strengths. While this may vary somewhat from company to company, these are typically processes that:

  • Use clearly identified, predictive business rules
  • Have structured, readable input (such as Excel spreadsheets or PDF files)
  • Exhibit low/no exception rates
  • Have a high frequency of occurrence, as well as high transaction volumes
  • Require rekeying data across multiple systems
  • Affect customer satisfaction

To have fundamental metrics about processes at their disposal, many manufacturers are turning to task-capture or process-mining software for help. But doing so raises another challenge: How do these tools differ from each other and which one is right for your business?

To answer those questions, let’s start with the basics: What’s the difference between processes and tasks? In short, processes can be defined as a logical and sequential cluster of related work. Processing an invoice, for example, is a business process. It is a complete grouping of related work that can be divided into various sub-processes, such as approval of payment by the accounts-payable department.

Tasks, on the other hand, are a cluster of related work within a single process. It is the multiple actions performed to execute a specific step in the process. Using the same example of processing an invoice, a task would be extracting information from the invoice, which requires multiple steps or a group of related work. 

With those explanations in mind, task-capture software enables companies to discover, understand and analyze the various tasks employees perform as they relate to completing larger processes. It works by recording the specific actions users take. A recorder, which employees manually trigger, captures their interactions in the different applications they use, recording data such as keystrokes, clicks, data entry, etc. to uncover how tasks are completed. Ultimately, this helps identify ways to improve how these tasks are carried out or how they can be automated to increase operational efficiency, reduce errors, and improve employee engagement.  

Process-mining software, in contrast, investigates the mountains of data in enterprise event logs—those banks of data that store information like software logins in the enterprise tech stack, interactions in that software, logoffs, etc.—to discover and present end-to-end processes that a company is performing to complete work. Process-mining software presents the process it has successfully mined, along with that process’ variants and recommendations as to how to optimize and improve that process. That strength—the ability to use artificial intelligence to mine and present a lot of data—is also a weakness. Process mining can elicit too much data that can be confusing. Yes…process mining offers the ability to uncover entire business processes, but it can be also be expensive while producing an overwhelming amount of data, such that it requires a solid support structure of data scientists to make sense of the output.

Task capture, on the other hand is more cost-effective and provides the precise, detailed information organizations can use to drive transformative initiatives like automation.

If a manufacturer’s main objective is to discover end-to-end business processes and it has the right governance framework and budget in place, then process mining might be a good move. If a company is trying to uncover the tasks its employees perform to improve its workforce, to boost efficiency, to identify more automation opportunities, and simply get a better grasp of their current-state processes to drive digital transformations, then task-capture software probably makes more sense.

For a truly robust strategy geared at continuous process improvement and scaling RPA, though, many companies are increasingly turning to the simpler, more cost-effective, and user-friendly option of task-capture solutions.

Charles Sword is chief revenue officer, Blueprint Software Systems