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Task Mining 101

Task mining is an approach that is used to analyze work tasks and identify process improvement, automation, and optimization opportunities. See definitions, steps, and examples in this guide.

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Last updated May 29th, 2023

As work becomes more digitalized businesses around the world are looking for more advanced ways to achieve operational excellence. 

Task mining software has become one of the hottest new areas for investment in recent years. In this article, we explain what task mining is, how it works, and what enterprise leaders need to know. 

What is task mining?

Task mining is a technology that automatically captures user interactions in business applications to analyze how different tasks get done and helps people identify how work can be done better.

In simple terms, task mining helps companies get a better understanding of how the work is being done by employees. This gives them visibility over where the time is usually spent and how it could be improved. 

Task mining can help you answer questions like:

  1. Are your employees able to perform the tasks given to them with the tools and resources provided?
  2. How much time is spent on different tasks and where are the biggest bottlenecks in task management? 
  3. What are the tasks that slow up your important processes, or create re-work in your workflows?
  4. Do different teams or individuals perform tasks in different ways, and are there best practices that can be shared?

What are the key benefits of task mining?

Task mining is a flexible solution that covers a number of key use cases for enterprise businesses. The top six benefits of task mining include:

  1. Visibility to workflows. Task mining technology gives transparency to how work is done - allowing for data-driven ways to remove bottlenecks, improve lead time and identify automation opportunities.
  2. Increased efficiency. The technology identifies bottlenecks to speed up process improvement. When issues slowing processes and people down are quickly found and dealt with, employees can forget about boring, repetitive busy work and focus on the tasks that matter. 
  3. Transparent performance measurement. Task mining is not, as some people worry, a tool for "spying" on employees. However, it does focus on individual tasks rather than end-to-end processes, which gives managers valuable insights into staff performance. 
  4. Operational benchmarking. Collected data adds up to give organizations a bigger-picture view of their processes. For example, managers might find that many people find a particular new task challenging, which indicates a need for better company-wide training and catch-up sessions.
  1. Better compliance & risk management. A data-driven approach helps organizations ensure better process governance. 
  2. Cost savings. As the main purpose of task mining technologies is to find what kind of saving operations can be done fast, it helps organizations achieve cost savings quickly.

How does the technology actually work?

Task mining is a subset of process intelligence software and can be seen as closely related to process discovery and process mining. Its key objective is to enable the analysis of digital work and user interaction data to enable teams and individuals to improve operational efficiency.

There are a number of different task mining software solutions in the market with slightly different approaches. Generally, it monitors what is being done on people’s computers, extracts the needed information, and then analyzes that to bring meaningful insights. It uses various task capture algorithms and techniques to identify patterns and trends within user interaction data. Finally, the key data is presented in a business intelligence toolkit with various dashboards and metrics you can track over time.

Infographic: how task mining works

Task mining technology is focused on analyzing individual tasks rather than end-to-end processes. In this context, a task is a smaller step in a business process. An example of user interactions done on computers could be mouse clicks, keyboard shortcuts, etc. 

Examples of typical tasks recorded in task mining:

  • copy-pasting the information,
  • uploading/downloading the documents,
  • scrolling through the systems,
  • mouse clicks.

Early forms of task mining software relied on the user interaction data that comes from images and video recordings, but increasingly task capture technology involves advanced object character recognition (OCR) and other artificial intelligence techniques to automatically capture information from the workstation or business applications while securing the data privacy of employees.

What are the typical use cases for task mining?

Task mining can be used for various business needs from process improvement to different scenarios of employee monitoring and performance evaluation. While the use cases can be both broad and very business-specific, there are five common uses in business operations.

Optimizing business operations or approvals

Task mining technology is widely adopted in shared services and business operations, focusing on repetitive activities like case management and approvals. It streamlines invoice processing by identifying inefficiencies and automation opportunities, reducing errors, processing time, and enhancing supplier relationships. 

In HR, task mining improves key performance indicators, employee onboarding, performance reviews, and processes, resulting in streamlined HR, better experiences, and reduced turnover.

Accelerating Intelligent Automation

Another use case for task mining is as a catalyst for intelligent automation. Task mining helps identify routine, repetitive tasks and workflows that can be automated, for example, using robotic process automation tools and technology.

Task mining can also help quantify the cost-benefit of adapting intelligent automation software.

Streamlining customer service

Task mining aids customer service functions in detecting bottlenecks by analyzing agent interactions and software tools. It identifies patterns, allowing organizations to take corrective actions, reorganize workflows, implement new technologies, or provide additional agent training for more effective and efficient customer interactions. This leads to faster onboarding, increased productivity, and higher customer satisfaction. 

Improving sales and marketing processes 

In sales and marketing operations, task mining optimizes lead generation by analyzing successful sales representatives' activities. It increases efficiency, drives revenue growth, and informs strategies for customer retention, reducing churn, increasing customer value, and strengthening brand reputation.

Enhancing IT support and management

Task mining solutions can improve incident resolution by identifying patterns in support ticket data, such as common issues, resolution times, and bottlenecks for resolving tickets.

It can also provide valuable insights into proactively resolving common customer complaints and challenges by providing insights into the common challenges that can be addressed in the knowledge base and one-to-many customer service.

Task mining tools

Task mining is still a relatively new technology, but companies have already been picking up the trend. There are several business process management vendors, and process discovery software companies have increasingly been acquiring task mining companies as well. Some of the more popular vendors are Nintex, Pega, UiPath, Kofax, Abbyy. 

The ecosystem is growing further, bringing to life many innovative startups that are bringing more depth and better ways of discovering business data. For a more detailed view, see a comprehensive list of top task mining software.

There are several technologies that are very similar to each other in terms of the goals they achieve and thus get confused often with task mining. The closest ones are process mining and process discovery. Although they might be aiming for the same improvements, the underlying technologies and analysis methods are slightly different and will be discussed further in the article.

Example of a task intelligence software - Workfellow process intelligence

Task mining vs process discovery

Task mining and process discovery are two related but distinct concepts within the broader field of process intelligence. Both aim to help organizations understand and optimize their business processes, but they focus on different aspects of these processes.

Task mining focuses on analyzing the tasks performed by employees during their daily work. Process discovery, on the other hand, focuses on identifying and visualizing the overall business processes that take place within an organization.

Both techniques are valuable for organizations seeking to optimize their processes and drive continuous improvement.

Task mining vs process mining 

Process mining and task mining are two technologies that get mentioned very often when it comes to improving business processes and tasks. In fact, many companies use them together in order to achieve complete discovery and analysis of knowledge work processes. This trend can also be observed from large process mining vendors as they’re actively broadening their portfolio of services with task mining capabilities. With the similarities being mentioned, the techniques and underlying methods they use are different and are worth being mentioned. 

One of the main differences between process and task mining is where they get the data from. In the case of process mining software, it uses the log data generated by systems and technologies, e.g., enterprise resource planning systems. On the other hand, task mining gets the data from people’s actual use of all the whitelisted systems and applications. 

Another key difference is, of course, the level of granularity. Process mining helps to record every major step in the process that event logs produce the data for. For example, in the Accounts Payable process the steps could be:

  • The invoice is received,
  • The invoice is reviewed,
  • The invoice is approved,
  • The amount is paid to suppliers. 

Task mining, in contrast, helps to see what happens between these bigger steps through snapshots and recordings. In the above case of Accounts Payable, the tasks could be opening the invoice document, copy-pasting the invoice number between systems, and sending the invoice via email for approval. 

Both technologies are very effective and are able to help managers with valuable insights into the workflows. Depending on the use cases at hand, either of them or both could be a good place to get started with digital improvements. 

Process mining versus task mining
Process Mining vs Task Mining

Benefits of combining task mining and process mining

As we've seen, task mining is in itself a powerful tool for any enterprise leader looking to improve operational excellence. It can give insights into task and workflow improvements across various enterprise operations use cases, while many of the challenges of early task mining software have been addressed. 

Increasingly, task mining is being adapted together with process mining, and many process intelligence vendors offer both solutions. The key challenge to this approach is that task mining and process mining collect data in completely different ways. A process mining solution based on collecting event logs from enterprise systems will have difficulties to include task insights (e.g., throughput time analysis or cost-per-task analysis) without a clean connection to task insights gathered from the employee workstation.

As a new alternative, hybrid process intelligence solutions such as Workfellow now offer process intelligence using generative event log technology - enabling the combination of task intelligence and process mining in one solution. For more information on the benefits of this new approach, see the case study below.

Read the case study on how one medium-sized business process outsourcing (BPO) firm uncovered over € 2 million ($2.17 million) in process waste.

Task Mining 201

Ready to deepen your knowledge of task mining technology? 

Pick from the related articles below how to continue your task mining journey:

-> How task capture technology works

-> 6 key benefits of task mining software

-> Top task mining use cases

-> Task mining vs process mining

-> Repetitive tasks at work research (2023)

-> Compare task mining software and tools

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