Extended periods of work travel come with a positive upside, as we get to spend lots of time in person, chatting in depth with buyers and users of technology. And a theme that came up repeatedly in conversations was the value and role of process and task mining. Hardly surprising, as I talked about technologies in a dozen separate keynotes, sessions, and workshops over the period. But what surprised me is that only one person I spoke with has used any of these tools, and many, many more had never heard of their existence before hearing about them from me.
This is truly baffling, as my audiences consisted of influential organizations in financial services and the public sector, tech and process-savvy individuals spending a lot of money on ambitious automation projects. They are some of UIPath’s, Microsofts, and Appian’s largest customers, yet, despite using and trying to use these vendor’s products to automate complex business processes, they knew nothing about the critical tools now available to provide them with previously unparalleled insights into tasks and process activities. In short, there is no lack of interest from enterprise buyers, or at least there wouldn’t be if they knew these tools existed. And once they do, they want to learn more.
About five years ago, RPA (Robotic Process Automation) had a ‘moment.’ After years of obscurity, RPA entered the mainstream, and startups suddenly became flush with investment and customers clamoring for their wares. Generative AI is currently having a similar moment, but process and task mining has not had its moment and probably won’t for various reasons. Reasons that we can sort into two general buckets, poor sales and marketing and, secondly, value engineering.
Though dozens of process and task mining tools are available, from Apromore, Minit (Microsoft), KYP, Workfellow, and many more, but few have much market visibility. In part because their go-to-market strategies miss the mark. Though certainly not unique to the process and task-mining world, there is a tendency to overpromise and overcomplicate. The messaging doesn’t align with critical day-to-day work, and they oversell the business case. The result is that they fail to connect with end users and decision-makers. As for the actual selling of these products, typically, they are seen by reps as something of a limited value upsell. Indeed, sales reps usually focus on selling more significant ticket items such as core process automation or business applications.
Secondly, who benefits from process and task mining? Process analysts do; it’s a huge, if not revolutionary, boon to their work. Their organizations also benefit, as these tools eliminate complexities and inefficiencies. Flip the coin and third-party service companies in the form of system integrators, consultants, and BPO, and their value is not so clear, as they are often the beneficiaries of corporate inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and complexity. Add to this the fact that targeted software sales and deployments can be derailed when an accurate picture of work activities is revealed.
On balance, I don’t think process and task mining will have its moment anytime soon, at least not here in the US. In fairness, in Europe, primarily driven by Celonis, it is gaining more traction. And though I am exaggerating for effect, I feel I have personally elevated the sector’s visibility substantially over the past five or six weeks. It’s a puzzle that, in some ways, aligns with security software in that process, and task mining tools reveal business threats. But many security tools can automate protections, whereas process and task mining tools (rightly) rely on skilled human intelligence to figuring out what to do next.
As my colleague Matt Mullen in peer reviewing this analyst note, my observations align well with our recently published Work Intelligence Report (see figure above). That one of, if not the most important set of tools in the enterprise automation toolbox currently flies beneath the radar. Though delivering measurable and substantial benefits to organizations that use them, few today know of their existence. But if my experiences over the past few weeks have taught me anything, there is a huge yet untapped market for process and task-mining technologies.