Why Are Process Variants Important in Process Monitoring? The Case of Zalando SE
Situation faced: Business process models serve various purposes. As precise documentations of an implemented business processes, they provide inputs with which to configure process monitoring systems, enabling the specification of monitoring points and metrics. However, complex business processes have a quantity of variants that can impede the activation of process monitoring. To mitigate this issue, we seek to reduce the number of process variants by performing behavioral analyses.
Action taken: Variants of a business process originate from points in the process model where the control flow might diverge, such as at decision gateways and racing events. We systematically identify the underlying semantics to choose from a set of alternative paths and characterize the resulting variants. This effort offers the opportunity to reduce the variability in business processes that is due to modeling errors, inconsistent labeling, and duplicate or redundant configurations of these points.
Results achieved: For a sub-process of an order-to-cash process from the e-commerce industry, we discovered 59,244 variants, of which only 360 variants lead to a successful continuation of the process. The remaining variants cover exception handling and customer interaction. While these variants do not lead to a successful outcome and might not qualify for the “happy path” of this process, they are crucial in terms of customer satisfaction and must be monitored and controlled. Using a set of methods (actions taken), we reduced the number of variants to 11,000. These actions reduced overhead in the process and normalized decision labels, thereby significantly increasing the process model’s quality.
Lessons learned: We elaborate on the impact of variants on the configuration of a process monitoring system, and show how the number of model variants can be significantly reduced. Our analysis shows that the semantic quality of the process model increases as a result. This reduction effort involves a structured approach that considers all variants of a business process, rather than focusing only on the most frequent or most important cases.
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