It has already become clear in our introductory article on process documentation – error-free documentation is the foundation for process optimization and has a strong influence on the success of these measures. Unfortunately, the user guidance of the documentation tools offered is usually not intuitive enough, so that important information is often forgotten, or mistakes are made during the documentation process.
Nowadays, there is software for automated business process documentation. Users can now record the process using a toolbar on their desktop while the business process is running in the respective application, such as SAP or a Web application.
The recording function is simply deactivated once the process is complete. All steps of the business process – every keystroke and every interaction – can then be described and either saved as documentation or loaded into the automation software.
In this way, the software captures process information directly from the user’s interaction with the application and the underlying business objects – without the need for an interviewer. This results in less time delays, susceptibility to errors, a higher level of detail, and lower costs.
Why Does Process Documentation Need a New Standard?
Numerous automation projects and experiences of the past years have often painted a consistent picture. Business processes were rarely documented with tools intended for this purpose, and the documentation rarely followed a standardized procedure.
Depending on the process user and department, more or less complicated but above all different approaches were developed. In retrospect, these “approaches” can be roughly summarized into the following categories:
1. Manual Process Documentation
In manual documentation, processes are documented with the help of hand-captured screenshots and a cumbersome copy-paste workflow. These methods are usually highly susceptible to errors, as the steps do not follow a standardized sequence, and the user is not guided by a program.
To get the best out of the process documentation, the documenting person must also know what information is required for the analysis – and, unfortunately, this is rarely the case with manual documentation.
2. Semi-Automatic Process Documentation
With these applications, screenshot functions are usually integrated directly into the tool, which reduces the number of applications used. However, they do not actively guide the user through the process of documentation but can instead be seen as “do-it-yourself solutions,” which in many cases are not designed for the management of business processes.
If, for example, company processes are to be automated, then these tools do not provide a sufficient technical data basis for the development of so-called robot scripts.
3. The New Standard: Automatic Process Documentation
These solutions include all-in-one tools specifically designed for the documentation of digital processes. In this approach, the interactions between the user and the computer are automatically recorded and strung together. In addition, the user is intuitively guided through the individual documentation steps. This results in fewer errors in process documentation. The description of the individual steps in the process overview helps to increase the understanding of the process.
To achieve a result that is as error-free as possible, the documenting user and the respective process management goals of the company should be focused on from the very beginning. This is the only way to ensure holistic documentation that provides a sufficient database for subsequent optimization measures.
Automatic Process Documentation
with AM Muse
AM Muse is part of our software ensemble and simplifies the accurate documentation of digital business processes. With the help of “smart” functions, the documentation process is reduced to the necessary. Thus, the error rate can be reduced, and the process understanding can be transferred between several parties without losing relevant information.
The following elements are part of AM Muse:
A. Automatic Recognition of Buttons and Text Boxes
Thanks to the Smart Indicator, AM Muse automatically records all the important process information and documents all clicking, reading and writing interactions in the various applications while the process user performs them live.
To make this possible, different automation providers are used (e.g., UI Automation, Selenium or Native Automation) to identify, document and highlight applications, windows and individual elements.
When the Smart Indicator is activated, the elements highlighted with the cursor are analyzed. While the user interacts with the various program interfaces, AM Muse automatically selects the automation provider that provides the most unique selector values (technical element information) for indexing the elements.
- UI Automation: Suitable for most Windows applications, Microsoft Office, Windows interfaces, and WPF applications.
- Selenium: Suitable for identifying elements in Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.
- SAP Scripting: Suitable for identifying elements in SAP GUI and SAP Business Client.
- Java: Suitable for Java Swing applications.
- Vision: Suitable for everything that is not recognized by other automation providers. Works with image processing and image comparison, e.g., especially suitable for remote desktop connections, such as RDP, Citrix and virtual machines.
- Native Web: for Internet Explorer (possibility to use Native Web even if UI Automation usually gives better results).
The advantages of the Smart Indicator and this approach are apparent. On the one hand, they simplify the documentation process, since the elements with which the user interacts no longer have to be marked manually. In addition, the interaction types (click, write, and read) are highlighted in different colors, which helps to ensure a well-structured overview.
If the process documentation is used in combination with RPA (Robotic Process Automation), the Smart Indicator provides important information for the development of the robot script. By identifying the buttons used, the implementation success of the Robotic Process Automation can be significantly increased, since the process information enables the software robot to determine which actions are to be executed and where input fields and buttons are located.
Another crucial advantage is the maintenance of the already implemented bot farm. Based on the previous assignment of interactions and control elements, these can be centrally modified and updated in the event of changes to the user interface (for example, due to software updates or program changes).
B. Automatic Recording of Technical Data
AM Muse documents not only the obvious process flow with the help of the Smart Indicator, but also all technical information available in the background, such as window, element or surface designations. This enables the identification of the applications used by the process owner, the system framework, and technical “selector values.”
The Selector Values can be thought of as a kind of “fingerprint” that can be used to identify elements, windows, processes, and applications. Ideally, these fingerprints are absolutely unique and clear, just as they are with humans.
Since the quality of the fingerprints can vary greatly between the various automation providers, the Smart Indicator selects the provider with the best results on a case-by-case basis. This guarantees the highest level of process quality. When checking the “fingerprints” or assigning the interaction elements, we follow the “Golden Rule,” which checks the element parameters layer by layer.
C. Automatic Alignment of the Process Flow Screenshots
A long wait – finally here. The actual “documentation” in the traditional sense. Each element interaction and documentation via the Smart Indicator automatically creates a screenshot, and the selected field is color-coded and numbered. This allows the sequence of the work steps to be seen as an overview afterward and the respective actions can be assigned to the corresponding elements.
The interactions within the documentation as well as the corresponding screenshots are then converted into a describable process flow.
D. Automatic Merging of Alternative Process Runs (Merging)
In most cases, there are different process alternatives for a workflow, which is why AM Muse not only follows the “happy path” but also considers all other options, exceptions and decisions.
By “merging” the previously determined process alternatives, the process runs can be summarized and decisions in the process flow can be made visible. This automatically identifies the part of the process where the different process flows differ. Thus, the process documentation is enriched with cognitive information, making exception and decision rules possible. The output can then be exported in different formats.
The Time Has Come for Next Level Process Documentation!
AM Muse enables the automatic documentation of business processes on a technical and logical level without additional help or extensive training. The methodology is designed in such a way that the process logic can be understood by third parties in all its aspects. The export into common formats provides an ideal basis for transferring knowledge, optimizing workflows, and automating processes.
Please refer to our tutorials for further information!