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  • Writer's pictureDoculabs Vision Team

Workflow Process Migration Explained – and Why Process Mining Creates Faster Time to Value

Herd crossing a river to illustrate workflow process migration explained

Migrating business processes routinely costs large businesses tens of millions of dollars. The cost of avoiding migration is also high – lost customers from poorly designed customer experiences to name one – and continues to climb.

What should an organization who needs to migrate their important processes from legacy or partial workflow systems to newer, automated platforms do?

Accept that it will be a costly and long process, but one that is now easier to accomplish with new technology. First, the pain: even “simply” upgrading versions of software historically has cost tens of millions of dollars. It can be even more if reengineering is required, for example in replacing a homegrown legacy system – where the costs are upwards of $100 million.

Now, the good: innovations in migration methodology and technology, specifically process mining, have dramatically reduced the pain and cost of migration. Even with the costs pre-process mining, migration to a modern platform has been worth it if you do it right. Now with the ability to shave thousands of hours of time and the associated labor costs because of process mining, the ROI of workflow process migration is even stronger.

Below we’ll outline and provide a brief overview of the new methodology for workflow process migration. We’ll dive into the details in future posts.

The Three Workflow Process Migration Scenarios

There are three general migration scenarios:

  • Green field. The organization introduces process management or automation for the first time. The organization is typically not barren of any workflow – there are often patches of ad hoc routing and document workflow, but these may be simplistic and inconsistent in design, using a patchwork of tools.

  • Product upgrade. The organization updates the workflow from the same vendor, e.g., from Appian 6.x or 7.x to 8.x. Upgrades almost always also include enhancing and expanding the reach of the workflow into additional business areas, participants, and processes.

  • Vendor switch. The organization switches vendors, typically from one or several legacy business process management (BPM) tools to a low-code platform. A special case is the move from a homegrown solution to a new commercially-available platform.

What Most Migrations Look Like Today

For almost thirty years Doculabs has been helping organizations improve their process automation and process management, particularly in financial services and insurance. The following is a current state snapshot of where most large financial service and insurance firms are today with respect to workflow and migration.

  • Organizations have experienced great success with process automation and case management systems. Most have found that the improvements are worth the migration once they make it to the other side. The most satisfied are those that invested heavily in building and configuring their applications for specific client service and customer-centric processes, such as customer onboarding, loss mitigation, money movement, account re-registration, claims adjudication, and appeals and grievances.

  • Many business areas are implementing alternative, lower costs process automation solutions, defeating the objective of having a single process automation and case management solution. There’s good news and bad news here. Faced with the cost, time, and effort of implementing, upgrading, and migrating traditional legacy BPM platforms, many business functions – not enterprise IT – are striking out on their own and pursuing “low code” and “no code” workflow solutions (Appian, Catalytic, etc.). This defeats the worthy objective of having a single enterprise process automation and case management solution, with all the associated benefits of scale. The good news is that some of the low-code process automation platforms can play the role of the enterprise platform. All that’s needed is a migration from the old to the new platform…

  • Costs to modernize and re-platform are significant. As mentioned above, most large firms spend tens of millions to migrate their systems, even if it’s “simply” upgrading versions. It can be even more if reengineering is required, for example in replacing a homegrown legacy system – where the costs are upwards of $100 million.

  • “Lift and shift” migrations are common, with organizations moving everything “as-is” and hoping to optimize post-migration. This is the most glaring problem with migrations and the most dramatic opportunity for improvement. By blindly moving all processes “as-is,” important processes get no special focused redesign attention or functional capabilities. Inefficient, complex, and/or wasteful processes simply have their deficiencies moved into the new process environment. Automating a bad process faster isn’t an improvement. Processes that are low value or have few work items annually are migrated – at significant cost -- rather than retired. Organizations may have wanted to sort their processes into migration categories but it’s always been a highly manual, subjective, costly task. This has changed with process mining.

  • Process mining is an emerging capability that can accelerate large-scale migrations. A growing trend is to use process mining to help sort candidate processes into migration categories, and then treat each category appropriately, by retiring, redesigning, improving, or lift-and-shift. Even before process mining was used for workflow migration, there have been proof-points for doing such “as-is” assessments (for example in upgrading SAP to S/4HANA). By incorporating process mining into a workflow process migration effort, thousands of hours can be shifted from understanding and documenting the current state to optimizing the future state.

The Four Migration Categories

By sorting your processes into one of the four primary migration categories – move as-is (life and shift), retire, recreate, and improve – you’ll be able to focus your efforts most efficiently.

  • Move As-Is: Replicate the current workflows in the new models for the new workflow system. This approach requires much less involvement from the business units but it also doesn’t take advantage of opportunities to optimize processes or introduce additional process and task automation. It's also not as easy of a choice as it may appear. It requires process inventory and analysis work to understand your current flows. And even if automated model generation works, there will still be post-generation cleanup re-work.

  • Retire: Decommission and retire the lowest-volume and lowest-value workflows where possible.

  • Recreate: Create optimized workflows and process models that introduce as much automation as possible. It requires a much more intensive upfront effort working with users to understand business processes and optimization opportunities from end to end. It will also require more iteration, testing, and refinement with business unit participation. A best practice approach prioritizes the highest-volume and highest-value workflows and then investing in re-engineering and re-creating them natively in the target platform.

  • Improve: Incrementally improve the remaining processes by standardizing, streamlining, and combining them where possible.

An Example Workflow Process Analysis and Migration Plan

A quick example illustrates how the analysis and migration works.

Consider a large enterprise workflow environment with 6,000 users, 2,000 workflow processes, and over 15 million work items per year. The first step is to profile the processes in the organization to determine which have the highest volume and which are candidates for retirement.

  • What you typically find is that a high volume of work is concentrated in a very small number of flows. In our example, 51% of the volume flows through the 27 largest workflows.

  • Correspondingly, a large number of flows have insignificant volume and could be candidates for consolidation or retirement. In our example, 829 workflows have fewer than 100 work items per year.

We’d recommend the following for an enterprise with over 15 million total work items per year:

  • Recreate the 27 workflows that handle the highest volumes, 7.9 million items per year.

  • Retire or collapse the 829 workflows that handle only 17.7 thousand items per year, each with under 100 items per year.

  • Improve – collapse, simplify, and standardize – the middle group, with 7.5 million items per year in 1,379 workflows.


Our workflow process migration methodology uses process mining and addresses three objectives:

  • Pre-migration analysis to determine which processes can be moved “as-is” and those that need to be redesigned, improved, or retired

  • Process-by-process migration into the target environment

  • Optimizing future processes and gaining new insights to reduce costs and minimize exceptions

It has the following benefits:

  • Rapid diagnosis of a process: determine whether to move a process “as-is” or redesigned, improved, or retired

  • Find identical or similar processes as candidates for consolidation

  • Auto-generate BPMN process maps for existing workflows

  • Compare old and new processes to determine the resulting impact on cost and value

  • Accelerate Compliance sign-off on migrated processes

Now that we’ve set the baseline for understanding the opportunities – and difficulties – of migrating business processes, our next posts will explain how to efficiently migrate from the current state of your processes to a drastically improved target future state.

Doculabs has combined decades of experience and process mining into a new proprietary solution that we use save our clients time and money for workflow process migration projects.

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