How Telcos can Optimize Business Processes with Process Mining
While many telecommunications companies have spent considerable time and budget on digital transformation initiatives to increase engagement with customers and accelerate time to market for products, business process optimization has often been an afterthought.
Business processes are the lifeblood of a business and the telecommunications industry is no exception. As many companies, especially telcos, are focused on digitizing existing business processes, process mining is exceedingly important. In fact, the global process mining software market is projected to grow from $933.1M to $15,546.4M by 2029. Simply put, process mining uses your data to analyze how effectively your business processes are being executed throughout your organization using logs taken from your systems. It looks for inefficiencies, bottlenecks and areas to target for further process improvements.
Traditionally, most telcos rely on a combination of ‘best of breed‘ operations support system (OSS) and business support system (BSS) platforms. However, telcos often run into challenges as legacy applications can be difficult to customize, integrations may not be seamless and out-of-the-box solutions are not particularly relevant or effective for the industry. We suggest taking a step back to analyze your existing ecosystem today to make the smartest decision for your business in the future.
Looking for Process Improvement by Analyzing Today’s AS IS Solution
Before spending significant capital to change your entire IT platform, you need to answer two key questions:
- Does the capital investment for the new platform yield operational expenditure savings or generate additional revenue returns, and what’s that breakeven period?
- Is it necessary to replace the entire existing IT stack or can you replace just the underperforming parts of it for better efficiency?
To effectively answer these questions, it requires a deep dive into your ‘as is’ business processes to understand today’s bottlenecks and find your improvement opportunities. Your current systems need to achieve the desired business outcome and if they cannot, then you’ve found a good candidate for replacement with newer tools that can help you achieve your goals.
TM Forum’s eTOM Process Framework is a good place to start. First, identify inefficiencies in your existing process flow, which can lead to optimization opportunities. Analyzing the relevant data behind these processes is crucial. Also determine which products and/or services lead to customer churn so that decisions can be made for enhancing information communications technology (ICT) offerings. Don’t forget to identify suitable candidates for business process re-engineering. For example, repetitive processes with standardized inputs are good candidates for process automation.
Consider a major UK telco that managed to reduce its network planning time by 70% or a Canadian telco that was able to launch a digital brand from concept to launch in 10 months. In both of these success stories, an integral part of the approach was to utilize the treasure trove of data generated by ‘as is’ processes and convert them into meaningful insights.
Why Process Mining?
Process mining applies data science and analytics (with its data mining techniques and algorithms) to dig into the records of your company’s software, understand its process performance and support optimization activities. It’s about discovering how processes are actually performed in the real world to discover problems and areas for improvement. With process mining, you have a single source of truth, an unbiased and objective end-to-end process flow and all possible variations with volumetric data. Not only can you measure and monitor process key performance indicators (KPIs), but you gain insight into process bottlenecks and root causes to identify improvement opportunities.
For the telecom industry specifically, process mining can be used to analyze customer service processes to identify where improvements can be made. By analyzing data on call center operations, such as call wait times, call resolution times and customer satisfaction rates, you can determine how processes can be optimized. Additionally, you can use process mining for network operations processes, such as network maintenance and network upgrades, which can help you reduce downtime and improve network performance. Similarly, process mining can be extended to order management, provisioning, inventory optimization, fault management, ITSM and performance management processes.
Four Keys to Success
When thinking about how to get started and building your process mining capability, consider these four keys to success to help you develop your process mining strategy and roadmap.
- Prioritize the right processes.
Because process mining analyzes systems that generate machine-readable event logs, it’s important that you select the right processes to clearly articulate the value of process mining versus traditional discovery. To highlight early successes and results, we recommend selecting processes with consistent event logs from software applications that focus on continuous improvement and monitoring.
- Assess your data quality.
The results of process mining directly depend on the quality of the data you extract. It’s not easy to process effectively when data is unorganized, incomplete and stored in various systems. Therefore, you need to have an enterprise application that generates quality logging to record transactional activity. Typically, enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) or any other business management software platforms are good candidates for this. However, you still need to conduct initial data feasibility by investigating your database structure and tables.
A lack of integrated applications is another potential challenge where processes that encompass more than one application are not connected at the data level. In this case, there is no single version of the truth.
Preparing data for process mining often requires the most time and effort, typically taking 40-70% of the total project time. While it may seem overwhelming, this is a pre-requisite to ensure your process mining output is a fair reflection of the real process.
- Build the right team.
The ideal team for process mining includes:
- A project manager to oversee the entire assignment and track project milestones until completion
- A process owner who is the subject matter expert and owns the identified process
- A process mining consultant who has expertise of the process mining platform and in process analysis methodology
- A data analyst who is responsible for creating and validating the event logs, which is integral to the entire process
- Enhance process mining with complementary solutions.
Telco companies often have many manual processes with tools like emails and spreadsheets. However, these actions do not generate event logs. To analyze these processes, task mining could be leveraged. Task mining runs on an agent's desktop and captures tasks in the form of event logs, which could then be fed to the process mining engine to perform analysis.
For the customer support process, conversational AI can derive meaningful insights. The contact center has a wealth of data which usually includes customer pain points, customer intent, agent performance and frequently occurring issues. Conversational AI can identify and categorize this information.
These solutions can help enhance your process mining tools so you get the most value for your business.
Telcos need scientific and data-driven methodologies like process mining to transform themselves from communications to digital service providers. The value of data in the digital world is immense and these techniques enable telcos to harness data to get meaningful insights into existing issues and drive a continuous improvement mindset.